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At The Cliff's Edge

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Two months later...

 

Eve reminisced about a gentle sea breeze as she fought against the harsh, biting wind. Autumn was in full swing and they were on their second day of a storm. The rain had been sparse but the wind lashed at them with all the fury of a hornet’s nest. She could almost hear the tempest around her buzzing with malevolence.

The wind was screaming inland, rushing in from the sea, and Eve was nearly bent over at the waist as she pushed against it towards the back door of the house. When she reached it she pulled it open hastily. The sudden absence of the wind against her chest made her stumble awkwardly over the threshold. She caught herself with one hand on the wall and paused to catch her breath before she made her way hurriedly into the kitchen. Oksana was there, filling a plastic bucket with warm, soapy water. She turned at the sound of Eve’s approach.

“It’s going to be any minute now,” Eve told her before she brushed by and began rifling through drawers. “She’s making a hell of a fuss.”

“What are you looking for?” Oksana asked calmly, turning off the tap behind her.

“-And the weather isn’t exactly going to make her more comfortable,” Eve continued, oblivious to the other woman’s question. “She’s probably got two, maybe even three, and it’s all going to happen during a damn hurricane.”

As she said it, she pulled open a drawer aggressively. It’s contents, some mixing bowls and measuring cups, clattered around discordantly. Eve swore under her breath. “Where the fuck is anything in this house?”

Before she could take her frustrations out on another innocent storage space, Eve felt Oksana’s palm against the small of her back. Then her other hand tugged gently on Eve’s shoulder and Eve found herself being slowly spun around to face the younger woman. “Take a breath, Eve. It’s going to be fine.”

“You’re only saying that because you’ve never done this before. You don’t know how stressful it can be if something goes wrong.”

“I used to kill people for a living, I think I know stress. You’ve done this before, several times. And I will be there to help.” At that, Oksana pulled Eve against her until her head was resting against her chest. “You need to calm down or else you will aggravate Molly as well.”

Eve’s voice came out muffled against the fabric of Oksana’s shirt. “When did you become such an example of level-headedness?”

Oksana shrugged. “I don’t know. I doubt it will last. But this is important, today, so I think I am focused on that.”

“Hmm,” Eve hummed, half-listening, half losing herself to the feel of Oksana’s arms wrapped around her, the rhythm of her heartbeat slow and soothing in her chest.

Eve had been wholly unprepared for the journey of their past two months together. She’d nursed Oksana back to health and then they’d begun their new life at the cliffs. It had become apparent rather quickly that neither of them had lived with someone for a long time. Neither of them had had partners for a long time. For Oksana, it was her first real relationship that wasn’t illicit or hidden or based on lies. For Eve, it was the first time she could be fully herself with another person; another person who didn’t bore her like Niko had. Who didn’t ask her to be less, like Niko had. There had been ups and downs in those two months, but they had settled into something resembling normal domesticity. Oksana had been right; it wasn’t as quiet of a life as Eve had thought it would be. The two of them together was a chaotic symphony, but so far they were doing alright.

“Eve? You were looking for something?”

Eve brought herself back to the moment, pulling away from Oksana’s chest and sighing. “Yes. I need towels and the digital thermometer.”

Oksana pressed a kiss to Eve’s forehead. “I will get the towels. You get the thermometer.”

Eve let her eyes shut for a moment before nodding and pulling away. “Okay. I was looking for dish towels but that’s stupid. There should be extra bath towels in the-”

“-Hallway closet-”

“-Yes,” Eve smiled. “I’ll meet you out back?”

Oksana smiled gently in return before nodding and turning away. Eve watched her go before pulling a glass from a cupboard and pouring herself some water. She took a few quick sips to calm her nerves.

Molly’s labour was no surprise. They had known that the very pregnant goat was going to be due any day, but the timing of the storm had thrown Eve into a tizzy. The shelter in the pen was sturdy enough and would keep out the worst of the gale, Eve knew that. Something about the harshness of the weather, though, made her stomach twist into knots.

She shook herself and pushed away from the kitchen counter. She grabbed the bucket of water from the sink and gingerly carried it with her as she moved toward the bathroom. She heard the slam of the back door ahead of her; Oksana was on her way back out to the pen.

Eve set the bucket down in the hallway and moved into the bathroom. She opened the medicine cabinet and found the thermometer. She hadn’t planned on using it during the birth, but the unexpected harshness of the wind had her worried about the newborns being cold. She made a mental note to add ‘new digital thermometer’ to the growing list of supplies they would need for the winter.

She tucked the thermometer into the back pocket of her jeans before hoisting up the bucket and making for the back door. Looking out the nearby window, she could see dust swirling around in the pen. Eve braced herself to face the tempest. She squared her shoulders and headed out the door, her hair immediately whipping wildly.

It wasn’t long before Oksana poked her head out of the shelter in the distance. When she spotted Eve, she beckoned for her to come quickly, and Eve picked up her pace as best she could. The wind was at her back, threatening to topple her forward. Warm water sloshed out of the bucket and splashed onto the dirt. She made it to the shelter as quickly as she could manage and was greeted by the marvellous absence of wind, followed by the gruff bleating of Molly, who stood uncomfortably against one wall of the shelter. Oksana was crouching next to her, petting her between the ears.

“It’s okay, Molls. Eve is going to take good care of you.”

Despite her stress, a small smile curled across Eve’s lips. She set the bucket down in another corner, next to a small wooden cabinet on top of which Oksana had placed the towels. The rest of the small shelter was scattered with hay and grass along the floor. Eve opened one of the cabinet doors and found a large folded tarp. She pulled it out and began to lay it out across the floor.

“Can you get Molly to move over here?”

Oksana nodded and coaxed the goat to step onto the tarp. “What’s that for?”

Eve glanced at Oksana and raised an eyebrow. "It’s going to get a bit messy, you know.”

Oksana looked uneasily at Molly. “Right. I know.”

“Don’t get squeamish on me now, Oksana.”

“I won’t. It’s just...,” the younger woman frowned a bit before shaking her head to snap out of it. “It will be gross, is all.”

“Mhm,” Eve hummed, already moving on to the next part of her preparations. “It will be.”

With the tarp unfolded and all their supplies gathered, there wasn’t much for them to do except wait. Eve had brought small wooden stools from the basement and she and Oksana sat with their backs against one of the shelter walls as they waited. The rest of Eve’s supplies were in the cabinet, and she was ready to grab anything she might need at a moment’s notice. The wind continued to howl outside, and while the shelter did protect them from it, each screaming gale felt like ice down Eve’s spine.

She couldn’t remember ever being this nervous for a delivery, except for maybe her very first time. That year it had been Tom who had helped her out, as he had with most things when she’d been getting settled at the homestead.

“You know,” she spoke up suddenly, and Oksana turned her gaze from Molly to Eve. “My first time doing this, it was just one little kid that was born-”

“-And you think Molly has two or three?”

“Yup. It’s normal. But that first year, Tom was helping me out and the birth went really well. I had been so nervous, and then it was so easy. The doe, I can’t remember her name, she was one of Tom’s, she did all the work and it was over and done with just like that. She hardly seemed to bat an eye.”

Eve could remember her nerves, her shaking hands, as she’d picked up the newborn goat.

“-but when we cleaned her off and held her up to the mother, the doe rejected her-”

“Oh?” Oksana had turned her whole body now to listen to Eve’s story.

“It happens sometimes,” Eve continued. “So we had to bottle feed her, which isn’t a huge deal, really, but I just remember feeling so... sad, I suppose.”

“I can relate to your little baby goat, then,” Oksana said, smiling faintly.

Eve turned to look at her. “I’ve never really asked you about your mother, and what happened between you two. Would you like me to?”

Oksana shrugged. “Maybe some other time. Please, tell me about the baby goat. What happened?”

Eve nodded and smiled as she continued reminiscing. “Well, Tom told me what to do since the baby had been rejected. I cleaned her up and dried her off. I bottle fed her and gave her extra nutrients for a while. Watched her stand on her wobbly little legs for the first time.” Eve laughed softly at the memory. “You know, all that motherhood stuff that I had no interest in doing with a human baby.”

Oksana hummed in understanding. Motherhood wasn’t desirable for either of them. Eve took a deep breath and continued, “Tom told me she was mine to keep, and after a few days I picked her up, cradled her in my arms, and named her ‘Molly’.

Oksana’s eyebrows raised slightly, and she took a moment to glance over at the goat in the centre of the room. Molly was waddling around in circles, slowly, uncomfortably, and letting out the occasional huff. “You never told me this story before.”

“No,” Eve shook her head. “I’d honestly forgotten about it until right now. It was nearly five years ago.”

“She turned out alright then, without a mother.”

“Yeah, she did. She was a shit, for sure, but she turned out alright.”

Oksana turned back to Eve and looked at her knowingly. “I do not think Molly is analogous to me, Eve.”

Eve glanced over at Oksana and grinned. “I don’t think so either. I mean, you didn’t turn out alright at all.”

Oksana’s jaw dropped slightly at Eve’s joke. “Wow, Eve, you are so rude.

Eve opened her mouth to reply, but at that moment Molly let out a particularly loud and distressed grunt. She stopped her wandering and stood still instead, before rocking on her hooves and bleating loudly.

“I think it’s time.” Eve stood up from the stool and went over to the cabinet to gather supplies.

“Tell me again, what do you need me to do?” Oksana asked. Their playfulness from earlier had subsided quickly as they prepared to get to business.

“Put on some gloves and bring those towels over,” Eve instructed as she knelt down near Molly on the tarp.

Oksana nodded and did as she was told. “You don’t want any of these other things?” She pointed at the cabinet, where Eve had a stash of supplies including scissors, dental floss, and iodine.

“Not yet.” Eve drifted one hand along the underside of Molly’s belly and let the other rub her soothingly on her neck. “You got this, Molls,” she whispered.

The goat bleated in response and then bleated again. Eve shifted her position to assist Molly if she needed it. Oksana waited a little ways away, near the cabinet. Outside, the wind might’ve picked up or died down; despite Eve’s earlier nervousness, the storm had become inconsequential.


“How’s the first one doing?” Eve asked as she crouched next to Molly again.

Oksana knelt a short distance away, towelling off the first baby goat that Molly had delivered. “Good,” she replied softly, her attention almost entirely on the kid in her arms. “It’s good, I think.”

Eve grunted in response, letting the other woman know that she’d heard her as her focus centred on Molly once again. The first delivery had been easy. The amniotic membrane first, and then a tiny set of hooves followed by a nose, then the rest. Eve had cleaned the baby’s nose and snipped the umbilical cord before bringing it to Molly and letting her lick its head clean.

It hadn’t been long before Molly had started panting and huffing again, though, letting them know that the other kid, or kids, were on their way. Eve had passed the first baby off to Oksana before returning to Molly. Oksana had been cradling the kid ever since, drying it off and cooing softly. Eve had wanted nothing more than to cross the room and press a kiss to the younger woman’s cheek, but Molly had bleated loudly, painfully, and it was back to business again.

The second delivery was unfolding slowly. Eve was beginning to worry until she saw a set of hooves emerge from the birth canal. She heaved a sigh of relief that was abruptly cut short. Another set of hooves had begun to peek out as well. Eve swore under her breath.

“She’s got two-”

“Oh?”

“-But she’s delivering them both at once.” Eve swivelled from her spot near Molly and reached for her supplies. “I’m gonna try to ease it along.”

“Do you need me to-”

“No, I’ve got it, just... just lay that one down not too far from Molls and be ready to get one of these ones,” Eve told her. From the corner of her eye, she saw Oksana nod and coo at the baby goat one last time before placing it gently on the ground in its towel.

Eve grabbed a bottle of lubricant from her supplies and dabbed some onto her gloved fingers, rubbing them together. She took a deep breath, knelt forward, and gently wrapped her hand around one set of small hooves. Molly whined impatiently, uncomfortably. With her other hand, Eve gently pressed against the head of the other baby, forcing it to hold still in the birth canal. As Molly pushed, Eve slowly pulled, and eventually, they delivered the first of the two kids. Eve let Oksana handle the newborn while she waited to make sure that the final baby would be delivered properly. A few moments later, it was, and Eve and Oksana each held newborn baby goats in their arms.

The room was silent for a moment as they both cleaned the babies’ heads a little bit and tended to the umbilical cords. Molly was panting but otherwise doing well. Just then, Oksana murmured, “This might be the strangest thing I’ve ever done.”

Eve snorted. “I highly doubt that.” She shifted and made her way around to face Molly. “Come on, we want to let her bond with her kids.”

Oksana nodded and followed suit as they brought the last two babies around for Molly to appraise and clean. A moment passed and Eve heard Oksana sigh with something like relief. Eve turned and looked at her questioningly.

“I was worried she might reject one,” Oksana explained, adding, “I said if she was a bad mother that I might kill her.”

Eve chuckled. “Well, looks like there’ll be no need for that.”

“No,” Oksana breathed, smiling softly. “You did well, Eve.”

Eve warmed at the praise, even if she knew that Oksana really had no point of reference. “Thanks. Now, come on, the work isn’t done yet.”

“No?”

“Nope. We need to get them their electrolytes and nutrients and water. Maybe do some milking, depending on how Molly is feeling. Oh, and in a few minutes she’s gonna deliver the placenta.”

Oksana’s head swivelled to look at Eve, her eyes wide. “Wait, what?”

Eve was already turning away, chuckling as she went.


It was a few hours later when Eve and Oksana finally bedded down for the night. Eve was exhausted, her eyelids already heavy with sleep as she climbed into bed. Oksana was less tired but subdued, the day’s events settling on her as she pulled back the covers on her side of the bed.

They were silent, and Eve was quickly beginning to nod off until Oksana spoke up lightly from beside her.

“I have been thinking, Eve.”

“Mm?”

“You should go on vacation. When was the last time you went somewhere?”

Eve fought off the shroud of sleepiness as she rolled over in bed to face the younger woman. “Uh, I don’t know really? Probably with Niko. Probably visiting his family in Poland or something.”

Oksana crinkled her nose, although whether at the mention of Niko, or Poland, Eve wasn’t sure. “You should go someplace spectacular, Eve. Someplace like... like Paris, or Rome, or Prague.”

“Hm,” Eve hummed placatingly. “Right. And who would take care of the goats while I’m gone?”

“Tom,” Oksana replied quickly. Eve was beginning to think this was more than just an errant thought.

“Okay... and how would I be paying for this trip? I don’t exactly have a conventional job, you know.”

“Neither did I-” Oksana smiled, “-but my unconventional job paid very, very well. I would take you.”

Eve let her gaze roam over the other woman’s face, taking in her expression. Oksana was eager, if a little bit guarded. Maybe a bit worried that Eve would shoot the idea down.

Eve smiled affectionately. “You’ve been thinking about this for a little while?”

“Maybe.”

“Well then-” Eve propped herself up on one elbow. “Where would you like to go?”

Oksana rolled her eyes. “I gave you some suggestions, Eve, but the final choice is yours.”

“Hm, okay, I’ll think about it.” Eve rolled off her arm and onto her back. “You really think leaving the goats with Tom is a good idea? He sort of ratted you out, you know.”

“Maybe we don’t let him know that I’m back just yet.” Oksana shrugged. “Or else I threaten to kill his entire family.”

Eve smacked her on the arm. “You will not.”

“You are no fun.”

“My idea of fun is just different than your idea of fun,” Eve shot back.

“Can your idea of fun be Rome?”

Eve laughed and looked over at the woman beside her. “I take it that’s where you want to go then?”

Beside her, Oksana shrugged coyly. “It does not have to be. Just a thought.”

“Hmm, I see. And do you have any other thoughts about places you'd like to go?” Eve teased, letting her fingers trace a slow line along Oksana’s forearm. The other woman’s gaze fell on Eve's roaming fingers before she looked up at Eve and smirked knowingly.

“Oh yes. Plenty of other thoughts,” she purred as she leaned forward and met Eve with a gentle, insistent kiss.

Eve hummed contentedly, and any thoughts she’d had of Rome were put off until morning as she melted into Oksana’s embrace.


6 weeks later...

 

“You are a terrible influence.” Eve was chastising Oksana for probably the fourth or fifth time since they’d left Rome. “You know that if you get caught, I’ll never see you again, and they’ll probably arrest me too.”

“Oh come on, Eve. It was fun,” the younger woman whined as she hauled Eve’s small suitcase out of the back of Eve’s beat-up old truck. They had parked in the driveway and Eve found herself gazing up at the cloudy, midafternoon autumn sky as she waited for Oksana to finish unloading.

Eve had been surprised to find the truck still in the airport parking lot when they’d returned. No one would think to break in or steal it, of course, being old and rusted as it was, but she’d half convinced herself that it would’ve been hauled off to the junkyard during their absence. Instead, it had been right where they’d left it, in row JJ of the longterm parking lot.

“Okay, maybe it was fun, but still, you should be more careful.”

Eve was scolding Oksana over an incident on their second-last day in Rome. After ducking into an alley to steal her for a kiss, Oksana had pulled Eve along and broken into a padlocked building, claiming adventure ahead. Sure enough, they had found their way to some old Roman ruins within the city. It had been beautiful and peaceful and entirely their own. Of course, it had also been illegal, a fact which had weighed heavily on Eve during their journey home.

“I am not careful, Eve. It’s part of my charm,” Oksana replied as she rounded the truck with both of their suitcases in tow. She met Eve at the front of the truck and took a moment to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear. “But I suppose I could try, for you.”

Eve looked up at Oksana and smiled gratefully. They both knew Eve’s concern came from a good place. For all the ease of their life together, Oksana was still technically a wanted criminal. Faking her death had seemed to work well enough with her old employers, but Eve wasn’t sure of the status of Interpol’s investigation.

When Eve brought these concerns up, Oksana tended to shrug them off. “For all we know, Eve, there are people in Interpol working for my old bosses. They may already know I am dead.”

Still, it made Eve uneasy at times to think about Oksana out in public. But, for all her fear, Rome had been perfect. The two of them together in what was, to Eve, an unknown and unfamiliar city. Oksana had shown her everything; museums and gardens and restaurants and high-end boutiques. Eve sighed at the memories, nostalgic already.

As the tender moment between them passed, the two women made for the front porch and let themselves into the house. They’d only been gone for a little over a week and yet the familiarity of the homestead was more than welcome. They were a little tired, a little hungry, and ready to call it a day. Eve wheeled her suitcase into a corner of their bedroom before collapsing backward onto the bed and letting out a heavy sigh.

“Home, sweet home,” she murmured.

“Mm,” Oksana hummed in agreement, flinging herself down next to Eve a moment later.

They lay in silence for a few seconds until Oksana spoke up. “Eve, I think we should keep one of Molly’s kids.”

“Hm?” Eve rolled over so that she could look at Oksana laying next to her. They hadn’t talked about Molly’s kids since before going to Rome, when Eve had told Oksana that she hadn’t planned to keep them after 2 or 3 months. Eve had only ever had the time and resources and patience to care for one goat at a time. In the years that Molly had been pregnant, Eve usually found other farmers in the area who were looking for goats when the kids were old enough to leave Molly’s side.

“One of Molly’s kids,” Oksana repeated. “Can we keep one?”

“Why?”

“Eve, please. They are so cute.” She said it as though it was enough explanation on its own. Eve was already inclined to say ‘yes’ and was about to do so when Oksana spoke up again. “And I do not like the idea of separating Molly from her babies.”

Eve watched as Oksana’s eyebrows knitted together and her mouth twisted into a small frown. She looked every bit the petulant brat that Eve had thought her to be when they’d first met, only now, months later, Eve knew her better.

“You know she’s been separated from her babies before,” she replied gently.

“I know. But I was not here for that, Eve, so that doesn’t matter.”

Eve rolled her eyes and leaned forward to press a soft kiss to Oksana’s lips. “You are a pain in my ass, you know that?”

“Surely a baby goat is less stressful than Interpol.”

“Oh, you little shit-” Eve rolled over until she could straddle Oksana’s hips, pinning her to the bed beneath them. “You know how worried I was about you, you asshole.”

Oksana rolled her eyes and caught Eve’s hands between them. “Yes, yes, you tell me all the time, Eve. You know, it is unhealthy to hold onto past resentments. You really should let these things go.”

“Wow. You are just so-”

Before she could finish her sentence, Oksana spread her arms and let go of Eve’s hands, forcing Eve to fall forwards against her chest, just barely catching herself before colliding with Oksana’s collarbones. As soon as Eve was against her, Oksana brought her arms around Eve’s back and held her tight.

“So, about the baby goat-”

“Yes, yes,” Eve relented, huffing her breath into Oksana's skin. “I was going to say ‘yes’ anyway, you tit.”

“Thank you for the compliment-”

“It’s not one.”

“Hmph.”

They lay in silence then for a few moments, enjoying the comfort of their bodies pressed together. Eve was the first to speak up.

“What do you want to name your baby goat?”

Oksana clicked her tongue, mulling it over before replying, “I haven’t thought about it enough.”

“Hmm, alright,” Eve hummed, nestling her chin against Oksana’s shoulder.

“Okay, wait. What about Polly?”

“Oh my god.” Eve turned and buried her face into the bed.

“Dolly.”

“Shut up.”

“Holly.”

“I’m going to put you back in the ocean, I swear to god.”

Oksana moved aside awkwardly and tried to get a look at Eve, who still had her face buried in the bed. “You wouldn’t.”

Eve turned her head slightly and cracked one eye open. “I might.”

Oksana grinned widely before beginning to pull herself off the bed. “You are, what is the phrase- 'keeping me on my toes', Eve.” She stood up and ran a hand through her hair. “I am going to make us dinner. Try not to throw me into the ocean until after I’ve eaten my final meal, okay?”

“Ass.”

Oksana winked at her in response before turning and making her way to the kitchen. From the bed, Eve heard the general racket of meal preparation, pots and pans and knives and cutting boards. She rolled onto her back and stared at the ceiling above her. She felt warm and peaceful. Whole for the first time in a while. It was nice, if bittersweet, when she remembered how she'd wound up there.

“I wish you could be here, Bill,” she murmured. “It wouldn’t suit you at all to live here, but if you’d visit once in a while, I bet you’d warm up to it.”

Eve sighed as she rolled and kicked her legs over the edge of the bed. Sitting up and facing her floor-to-ceiling windows, she smiled at the memory of Bill. She wondered idly how his family was doing. His daughter would be almost six years old.

While she would always feel grief over Bill’s death, Eve supposed that, in a roundabout way, it was his death that had led her to the cliffs. It had led her away from her crappy job and her crappy marriage and her half-lived life. A life that had reeked of a normality that had made her feel less than herself.

She would never thank him for dying, but she hoped that maybe, if he could see her now, he might feel glad that she’d carried on so well.

Oksana’s voice from the kitchen pulled her out of her thoughts. “Eve, care to chop an onion for me? I know how good you are with a knife.”

Eve shook her head and smiled before hauling herself up from the bed. She took a moment to stare out the window at the grassy fields that led to the cliffs' edge. They were brown now, showing the change in the seasons, but Eve still found them as enchanting as ever. Something about the way that they led to the cliffs, to the inevitable end of the line, gave her comfort.

And beyond that, the cliffs' edge. From her window, they were simply a hard line across the horizon, beyond which the grey of the sky dominated the view. She no longer thought about the cliffs like she’d used to; no longer felt the urge to look over, to jump off, to fall down.

For the first time in as long as she could remember, she was perfectly content right where she was.