The wind lashed at the harsh edges of the cliffs, causing the rain to fall sideways and the waves of the ocean, over 500 feet below, to crash thunderously against the rocks. Eve stood in quivering grass surveying Mother Nature’s wrath from the dubious safety of the top of the ridge. She stood seven or eight steps back from the sheer dropoff, well within a safe distance, but sometimes, during storms like this, she wondered about inching closer. Maybe within four or five steps. Maybe within two.
She never did, though. She always remained firmly planted; seven or eight steps from the edge.
The coast had always fascinated her, but before then she’d never had the freedom to really bask in its power and beauty. She had always lived in cities. In Connecticut she’d lived away from the coast, had never made it to the ocean much at all, and her life in London had been no different.
Past lives, she thought to herself. Now she lived where she wanted to live, at the top of desolate yet mesmerizing cliffs in the northern UK, a 45-minute drive from the nearest town. At some point in her life it would have been laughable to imagine her living like this, but she was content with her decision to move. It was never too late to start over.
Eve shook her head, dispelling her thoughts, before shifting her gaze from the dark clouds and roaring ocean down to a beach nestled in a small cove at the bottom of the cliffs, a little way down the coast. Not far off the shoreline were what appeared to be several rows of wooden beams, anchored in place. They were being subjected to some of the harshness of the wind, periodically submerged by small swells, but overall were protected from the worst of the weather. They were home to her oysters.
The decision to farm oysters had been an impromptu one, but it made a lot of sense in the long run. Oysters could be farmed sustainably, they were healthy, and easily manageable for her on her own. She had no extra help or hands at her little home on the cliffs, which meant that anything she planned to grow herself had to be doable alone without too much hassle. It was why she had never owned any livestock; she’d never had the stomach to be a butcher.
The oysters took about three years to grow to a mature and harvestable size. She’d staggered herself so that she had a harvest each year. It was one of her proudest accomplishments, because she’d done it herself and it was really rather niche. Not everyone could boast about growing their own oysters.
That being said, she didn’t spend enough time around others to be able to boast about much of anything, living as she was like a hermit. It didn’t bother her much though, anymore. At first the silence and stillness had been suffocating. Now it was a welcome friend.
Eve let her lips curl into a small smile before she turned away from the cliffs and wandered back to the homestead, ready to turn in for the night, surrounded by the ferocity of the storm, welcoming it.
Dawn broke early, casting pink hues against the far wall of Eve’s small bedroom. The house was rustic, many parts of it made of nothing more than logs and lumber, but she’d decided to paint the walls of her room a creamy sort of white. That way, every dawn, the sun would paint the first light of day across the canvas of her east-facing wall. It made for a peaceful start to the morning.
She hauled herself out of bed, enjoying the first light of day. She pulled an old sweater and sweatpants on over the shorts and tank top she’d slept in before she wandered to the kitchen to brew a pot of coffee. With her steaming mug in hand, she padded to her front door and settled on her porch, content to spend a few moments of the morning in peaceful thought, before she’d have to begin the day’s work.
The thing about living in self imposed isolation was that it meant there was so much more work for one to do every day. Eve avoided going into town as much as possible, and as such she grew and harvested as much of her own food as possible. Her vegetable garden was coming along nicely, her oysters would be ready in a few weeks, and her only animal, Molly the goat, provided her with milk. She got water from a well, or the frequent rains, and anything else was bought on her rare trips into town, where she only picked up things with long shelf lives. She just didn’t fancy going into town more than she needed to.
Along with her food and water, the homestead had its share of upkeep. The house itself was old, and she often found herself replacing shingles, mending window frames, or fixing leaky pipes. Needless to say, her bookshelves (of which she had many) were lined with books of various “... For Dummies” titles. Plumbing for dummies. Gardening for dummies. Electrical wiring for dummies. Maybe not the most modern source of information, given that tutorial videos could be found anywhere and everywhere on the internet, but Eve limited her contact with the outside world so much that she’d long ago given up with WiFi.
She sighed as she brought her mug to her lips, tasting the bitterness of her coffee, letting it linger on her tongue.
The ocean would be calmest in the early morning, she figured, the storm of the night before having passed sometime in the darkness. She would check the oysters first, then.
With that settled, she lifted herself up out of her rickety rocking chair, an ancient thing that looked on the brink of crumbling to dust anytime she sat down, and wandered back indoors to get dressed.
A little while later, Eve was walking down the small trail that led to the cove. It wasn’t well worn, given the out-of-the-way nature of her homestead, but it was easy enough to follow for her trained eye, and it led down to the beach by way of several switchbacks. It took about 20 minutes to get to the beach. She sighed contentedly as her feet hit the sand, the weight of her hiking boots causing her to sink an inch downwards. She began to trod towards the shoreline.
She had a small canoe waiting for her in the wet sand. She paused to take off her shoes and roll up her pants before dragging it out to the shallows. Eve then settled herself and began to paddle out to the oyster farm, humming to herself as she went.
It wasn’t long before she came upon the first row of racks. At high tide they were visible only as beams of wood on either side. Between each row of beams were smaller wooden rods, submerged, upon which the oysters grew. At low tide she would be able to inspect them thoroughly and harvest the ones that were ready. In the meantime, she donned a snorkel mask and spent time checking each rack from the surface, peering into the brackish water and making sure each individual rod was secured and undamaged from the storm.
Eve had nine racks in the water and harvested three each year. She decided to check the nine of them that morning to make sure that all of them, especially the youngest group, had been undisturbed by the severe weather.
It was tedious work, but she loved it, and that had come as a surprise in the early days. Eve had always had the propensity to grow bored at any repetitive task. It was what had caused her to quit her job. It was what had caused the dissolution of her marriage.
Well, that and-
Something caught her eye then. She was inspecting her seventh rack, but the eighth and ninth weren’t far off and she noticed that the furthest rack was tilted unnaturally in the water. One of the beams was lifted above the surface, weighed down by something on the other side. She cursed under her breath, hoping debris or driftwood hadn’t shattered the mooring. She began to maneuver her canoe directly to the furthest rack.
It turned out that it was not debris. Or seaweed, driftwood, or even an animal.
It was a woman, clinging to the rack with the last of her strength, fluttering on the edge of consciousness.
“Oh Jesus,” Eve gasped, before urging her boat closer to the rack. When she came alongside, she hoisted the woman in, not at all gracefully, by the armpits. Seawater lapped into the canoe as she struggled to pull the woman over the edge. Once inside, Eve fluttered her hands over her limp body, searching for injuries.
She checked for a pulse and heard ragged, shallow breathing. Sure that the woman was at least alive and had no obvious injuries, Eve wrapped her in a wool blanket that had been stashed under her bench. She laid her to rest against the bottom of the canoe before picking up her oar and beginning to trek back to shore.
“Fucking Christ,” she whispered under her breath.
She spared a fleeting glance at her passenger, guessing the woman was in her mid-twenties. Her hair was a darker blonde, slicked against her scalp and drenched from the water. She looked fragile, lying unconscious, made small by the enormity of the ocean that had tried to devour her. As she lay in the boat she began to shiver. Eve forced herself to paddle faster.
She spared a backwards glance at the oyster racks she hadn’t checked. She’d been so preoccupied that she hadn’t even paused to inspect the damage done to the last rack. It would probably need replacing at the next opportunity. She felt a small twinge of annoyance before she shook her head at herself and turned again to face the shore.
The racks could wait, of course. She had undoubtedly more important matters to deal with.
Thanks for reading!
I promise plot is coming. @filthynebula on tumblr if you want to say hi or scream in my general direction about KE
Bless @nearlymidnight for the beta and for being an absolute gem
Chapter 2: Oksana
Ahhhh thank y'all so much for the comments and support on chapter one! This fic might feel slow at first but I promise I have a plan and it is going places
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Carrying a body was not easy.
Carrying a body weighed down by soaking wet clothes was difficult.
Carrying said body up a hill was even harder.
Eve was coated in sweat by the time she made it back to the homestead, almost as drenched as the woman she carried.
Sometimes she’d piggybacked the limp body, other times she’d tried her hand at carrying her bridal style. Nothing made her any lighter, and Eve was certain her back would be screaming about it the next day.
Still, the hardest part was over. She gently laid the woman down on the porch before unlocking the front door. She figured it wouldn’t hurt to drag her the rest of the way, and pulled her new guest into the foyer and across her living room floor, dragging her by the wrists.
Eve hoped to god that she remained unconscious for the time being, since one might think it a bit demeaning to have their limp body dragged across a stranger’s floor.
It became a touch more awkward when Eve realized that she would need to strip her down to her underwear, at least. The soaking clothes were only going to make the woman colder, in addition to the wet streak they’d already left along the hardwood floor.
Eve sighed once in exasperation before she got to work.
When she was done, Eve decided that the woman looked very peaceful, sleeping while wrapped up in blankets on the couch in the living room. At least, Eve hoped it was sleep and not some near-death, hypothermia-induced coma. Her “For Dummies” book on medicine hadn’t covered what to do with half-drowned castaways.
Eve did know that she had to keep the woman warm and rested. She had lit a fire despite the summer season, and she could see a bit of colour returning to the woman’s cheeks. Eve settled herself into the nearby armchair, feeling herself sink deep into the cushions, a result of the age of the furniture combined with the weight of her exhaustion. Her mind was startlingly blank considering she’d just rescued someone from nearly drowning. She glanced around the living room idly, in a daze.
The room was small and humble, like the rest of her home. It held one couch and two armchairs. Set into one wall was a small wood-burning fireplace, currently crackling with the fire she’d started, smoke wafting up the chimney, warmth permeating the room. There were floor-to-ceiling windows on either side of the fireplace which gave her a view of the grassy fields which led to the cliffs. The homestead wasn’t perched right along their edges but rather lay several hundred metres inland.
She watched a few gulls soaring in the distance and let out a heavy sigh.
“Bill… what the fuck am I doing?”
The woman slept for three days. At times, Eve cursed her decision to get rid of the internet, seeing as it would’ve come in really handy when she was panicking and wanted to search up things like how to properly take care of an unconscious half-drowned person and how to tell if someone is in a coma or just having a very long trauma-induced nap.
A few times she’d even considered phoning someone from her aging mobile phone.
When she first moved to the homestead it had been far more practical to have a cell phone without internet access than to bother owning a landline. Being 45 minutes out of town ensured she had cell service, even if it was a bit spotty. Being the only house in the area for several kilometres, on the other hand, meant that no one was going to wire a telephone line directly to her.
She thought about calling a hospital but decided against that early on. It would probably seem too suspicious if she called asking very specific questions without actually bringing someone in, because she had decided that she would not take the woman to a hospital at all. The closest one was two hours away and Eve didn’t think that she was in life-threatening condition. She was just asleep. For a long time.
Eve also briefly considered calling Elena, but Elena had a habit of wanting to know all the details and wanting to be involved in the action. Which was all well and good, except that Eve didn’t want to drag someone into another one of her messy situations. They had once been a habit of hers, something that she hadn’t intended to repeat, isolated and alone as she was at the homestead.
So she settled for not calling anyone at all. And not doing much of anything, really. She kept the woman warm, tried to give her water, and waited, hoping she would wake up soon.
During the moments when she wasn’t making herself busy around the homestead, she found herself drawn to the living room.
She would stare at the woman lying on her couch and will her to wake up. Or she would stare without any thoughts at all, simply taking in her features.
Her earlier estimation of an age in the mid-twenties still held true, Eve had decided. She was young and beautiful, and a face that Eve had once considered to be fragile now seemed sharp to her. Haunting, almost.
Maybe that happened to people who narrowly avoided death, Eve mused. They became more ghostly each time they tempted fate.
Aside from her physical appearance (seriously, was this woman a fucking model or something?), Eve found herself increasingly fixated on the how and the why of it all.
How had she wound up stranded in the ocean? Why was she alone? Where had she come from? Was anyone looking for her? Why didn’t she have anything on her?
Because yes, Eve had searched her clothes for ID after she’d stripped her down. Looking for anything to identify her, to help her glean a bit of understanding. But the woman had had nothing on her at all, no wallet, no passport- nothing.
The mystery only grew. And the deeper it went the more Eve found herself irresistibly pulled into its grasp. She told herself that, when the woman woke up, she would get some answers, somehow.
It had dawned on her then that if it were her waking up in an unfamiliar home, she would probably freak the fuck out and not be very cooperative at all.
Eve tried not to think about that, but she still made sure there was nothing weapon-like nearby in the living room.
Just in case she’d rescued a serial killer or something.
That had made her chuckle and then she’d moved on to some other chore and left the woman sleeping again.
And then she’d woken up.
It was the early evening. Eve was cooking herself dinner, aided by one of the many cookbooks which lined her shelves. That particular night she’d opted for something vegetarian.
She still ate meat, but only on rare occasions, and from whatever was stockpiled in her tiny freezer. Seafood was a different matter, and that she ate on a regular occasion.
The oven chimed and Eve pulled out a pan of roasted vegetables. All were from the garden: beets, carrots, kohlrabi, and onions, to name a few. She’d seasoned them before roasting them and the smell, wafting upwards to her, was mouthwatering.
It was simple, far from elegant, but Eve had never been a great cook. She’d always had Niko for that. She gave herself a moment to remember some of his finer creations before she cut the train of thought short.
She was well practiced in the art of not thinking about him anymore, and she turned to set the pan on the countertop before getting the rest of her meal together. That was when she heard it.
Eve nearly dropped the tray.
Or rather, very nearly dropped it on the floor. She did drop it on the table, however, and a few vegetables hopped out of the pan, disgruntled.
“Hello?” she called out.
A faint “hmph” was the reply she received from the living room.
Eve smoothed her hands down the front of her shirt before taking a deep breath and walking into the other room.
The woman was, indeed, awake. She was propped up on her elbows, hair falling down her back, bare shoulders visible as the blanket lay across her collarbones. Eve couldn’t help the way her eyes were drawn to the exposed skin, even though she’d been the one to undress the woman only a few days prior. Seeing her awake, laying like that, made her look like a painting come to life.
She was regarding Eve with a look somehow quizzical and nonchalant at the same time. Like she was curious to know what was going on but also couldn’t give two shits about the answer.
And for all her mental preparations, Eve found herself floundering in the face of actually welcoming this stranger into her home.
“Who are you?” the woman asked her in a brusque Russian accent. “And why am I half naked?”
The memory of stripping her down was enough to jump start Eve’s stalled brain. Because of course it would be the second thing she asked about.
“Uh, I’m Eve. And I took off some of your clothes when I brought you in because they were soaked and you needed to dry off because you’d almost drowned, and the clothes were just making everything worse really-” She forced herself to not ramble any longer about the clothes when she noticed the woman quirk an eyebrow in amusement. Instead she asked, “and you are...?”
The woman looked around the room, taking in the surroundings with calculating eyes.
“Where am I?”
An exasperated sigh.
“Where in the UK?”
And suddenly Eve was exasperated too, with the woman’s curt attitude and refusal to answer questions. And perfectly smooth skin that Eve felt had been unfairly gifted to this woman who was just… a brat.
“My house,” she shot back.
Instead of annoyance, a look of amusement flashed across the woman’s face.
“You,” she pointed at Eve enthusiastically, “are a feisty one. I know because I heard you shouting at your appliances.”
Eve was about to be embarrassed when she remembered that she’d been yelling at her toaster the morning before, when the other woman had been asleep.
“That’s not possible, you were asleep.”
Her guest raised her eyebrows in mock innocence, and quirked her mouth as if to say ‘oops’.
Eve wasn’t sure what she had been expecting but it certainly wasn’t this. It appeared as though she’d rescued the most childish, insolent castaway on the coast of the UK. Of course, there probably wasn’t much competition for the title, but still.
“You’re an asshole, aren’t you?”
“Maybe, a bit,” the woman replied, looking seriously contemplative before giving a lazy shrug. Eve was getting whiplash from their introductory conversation, which hadn’t included much introduction at all.
“Ok, well, since you’re up you can eat if you want. I’m going to eat. And please just give me something to call you while you’re here. Unless you want to be called Asshole?”
“Hm, I think not,” the woman paused for a moment before continuing, “you can call me V.”
“V? Just V?”
The woman nodded sagely, mockingly.
“Is it short for something?”
“Yes,” she replied, before rolling on to her side, offering nothing else.
Eve rolled her eyes, huffed, and turned to walk back to the kitchen.
Eve stopped, then turned to face the couch again. “What?”
The reply came quieter, as if turning down the volume allowed her to become more honest.
“Actually, I think I’d rather you call me Oksana.”
“Okay,” Eve replied, annoyance fading and curiosity taking root once again. “What about-”
“Eve, your vegetables are getting cold.”
And with that Oksana pulled the blanket over her head, like a child hiding from monsters in the night, and Eve was left standing there in bewilderment.
thank you for reading and thanks again to the wonderful @nearlymidnight for beta!
Chapter 3: Recovery
hi friends i'm so sorry for the delay - summer gets busy and i've been trying to figure out my life
BUT this story is still very much on my mind and i hope you will all forgive this delay (and lets be real some possible future ones) and stick with it
ALSO plot will de developing now that the introductory chapters are out of the way, yeehaw
If Eve thought that one moment of honesty (tenderness, even?) would precipitate a change in Oksana’s overall behaviour, she was sorely mistaken. Still, she heard Oksana meandering towards the kitchen not even ten minutes after their conversation and Eve felt like she’d won a small victory by getting her petulant house guest to join her for dinner.
That was quickly replaced by mortification when she remembered that Oksana was essentially nude, clothed only in her underwear.
It shouldn't have been embarrassing since Eve had been the one to undress her, but it had really become too much suddenly now that Oksana was awake. It made Eve feel creepy to look anywhere near her bare skin, when before it had merely seemed observational, objective. Clinical, in a sense.
She found herself regarding her roasted vegetables with exaggerated interest.
Thankfully, Oksana had draped the blanket around her shoulders when she’d left the couch, and she padded into the kitchen sleepily, helping herself to food once Eve directed her to plates and cutlery.
Oksana ate at Eve’s table with her elbows splayed out, ready to defend her meal against predators that Eve imagined must have existed and tortured her at some point during her life. She wondered if Oksana had grown up rich or poor, or somewhere in between.
She ate hurriedly. She didn’t comment on Eve’s cooking, but judging by the way in which spoonfuls of vegetables and rice were filled and refilled at an alarming rate, Eve supposed that was a compliment of its own. Or Oksana was just indiscriminately hungry.
Part way through the meal, which had been progressing in silence up until then, Oksana levelled her spoon at Eve, one cheek still bulging with half-chewed food.
“What do you do here, exactly?”
She tried to appear disinterested but her tone and her eyes gave her away, Eve thought. She was curious, maybe even suspicious.
Which was fair enough, Eve conceded, given that Oksana had woken up in a stranger’s house likely very far from home, if the Russian accent was anything to go off of.
“Uh, well I live here, so… I do that.”
“By choice?” Oksana asked, and Eve couldn’t tell if her shock was feigned or genuine.
“Yes,” Eve replied, squaring her jaw.
Oksana hummed to herself, letting the conversation die off and focusing again on her plate.
“What happened to you?” Eve blurted out, unable to contain the curiosity any longer. “I mean, how did you wind up here?”
Oksana didn’t look up from the table this time.
“A shipwreck, I suppose.”
“Well, yes. A storm in the night or something. I was asleep when it all went to shit,” she muttered.
“Where were you sailing to? And from? What kind of boat were you on? Or a ship? Could there be others, maybe, further along the coa-”
“No others,” Oksana cut in. “Just me and… just me.”
Eve raised an eyebrow, having caught her in her lie. “Bullshit.”
Oksana glared up at her, mostly in frustration of her own slip up.
“Fine. Myself and one other. But I do not think he will be here.”
“I don’t know. Just a feeling,” Oksana replied, shrugging nonchalantly.
Eve let it go and moved on to the next question.
“And where were you heading?”
“It doesn’t matter does it, since I did not arrive there.”
Eve let that go too.
“Where were you coming from?”
The bluntness of her answer caught Eve off guard, and for a moment she had no follow up, no further interrogation. Every second of the conversation had been like pulling teeth in order to get a straightforward answer. Why had that particular question been so easy?
Oksana’s voice pulled Eve out of her thoughts.
“How long have I been here?”
“About three days,” Eve answered, not bothering to detail the long and annoying trek she’d had to make to carry Oksana up from the beach. She thought about it, just to impress upon her how bothersome it had been, but she decided against it. It would be rude to complain about saving someone’s life, wouldn’t it?
“Where did you find me?”
“In my oyster farm.”
That reminded Eve that she still needed to fix the damaged rack. She tried to make a mental note to herself, but was distracted by the way Oksana leaned back heavily in her seat. It made the blanket fall from her shoulders, dipping so that her collarbones became visible; sharp lines etched in smooth skin. Eve felt herself swallow, despite a lack of food in her mouth, and found herself feeling annoyed once again about this bratty child having been gifted perfect complexion.
“Oysters,” Oksana deadpanned.
Eve sighed, and pushed her chair back from the table.
“Are you done with your food?”
Oksana looked down at her empty plate before glancing back up at Eve.
“I think I’ll have some more, actually.”
“Great,” Eve grunted, before picking up their plates and returning to the kitchen, begrudgingly dishing Oksana another serving.
“As soon as she’s healthy,” Eve grit her teeth, muttering under her breath, “she’s on the first ride out of here. Bill, I swear to god, why did you let me think this was a good idea.”
Becoming healthy, it turned out, took only a matter of days for Oksana.
Whether because of some supernatural ability or sheer determination, it was unclear. Although, truth be told, Eve wasn’t really sure how long it took the average person to recover from near-drowning. Maybe Oksana was par for the course.
She continued to sleep on the couch in the living room, an unspoken agreement that had come at nightfall given that Eve’s home only had one bedroom. When Eve got up the next morning, after fixing herself a mug of coffee, she wandered into the living room to check on Oksana before beginning her chores for the day.
“Fix the oyster rack, trim Molly’s hooves, check the tomatoes-”
Eve almost dropped her mug in shock, her list of chores forgotten.
Oksana was on the floor of the living room doing pushups.
And, because she had no clothes, she was doing them in her underwear, the muscles in her back flexing each time she effortlessly lowered herself to the ground and pushed herself back up, elbows tucked against her sides. Eve took in the sight, feeling a mix of confusion and awe, before she stopped her gaze from travelling any lower across the woman’s back.
She clearly needed to work on her manners. Apparently she’d been isolated so long that she’d lost all sense of propriety. Staring was rude, after all.
She cleared her throat, and Oksana paused mid-motion to turn and look up at her.
“Oh. Good morning Eve.”
“I see you’re feeling better.”
“Yes, much, thank you,” Oksana replied, shifting out of her position and starting to stand.
Eve automatically averted her gaze when Oksana turned to face her, not bothering to cover up with the blanket that lay discarded on the floor. Oksana let out an amused sort of huff at the gesture.
“I will gladly put clothes back on whenever you return them to me. You are the one prolonging this-” she gestured elaborately at her body “-spectacle.”
Eve refused to rise to the taunt, refused to look at the increasingly insufferable woman in front of her. How had she managed to save the life of the least grateful person on Earth? If there was a God, she had a wicked sense of humor.
“Full of yourself, aren’t you?,” Eve replied, a model of indifference. “Your clothes are hanging outside on the line so grab them whenever you like.”
Oksana pretended to gasp. “You’d send me outside like this? Eve, what about perverts in the bushes.”
“We’re 40 kilometers from the nearest town and 3 kilometers from the nearest farm. I think you’ll be fine,” she shot back. “I’m going to get to work now.”
“Yes. I have to fix the oyster rack you broke when you washed ashore-”
“Sorry for the inconvenience,” Oksana mock-whispered, sarcasm dripping. Eve carried on, ignoring her.
“-and then I need to trim Molly’s hooves and tend to the garden. You can do whatever you like, I suppose. Continue with-” Eve gestured vaguely at the spot where Oksana had been doing pushups a few moments prior, “-whatever that was.”
Oksana stared at her in amusement for a moment before she spoke again.
“Do you have shorts I could borrow?”
Oksana sighed impatiently. “You know? Like pants, but shorter. Shorts .”
Eve stared at her, mouth fixed in a tight line. She briefly wondered, not for the first time, if anyone was searching for this woman. If not, no one would miss her if, one of these days, Eve pushed her off the nearby cliffs.
“Sure,” Eve replied, levelly, “I have shorts you can borrow. There should be some hanging outside as well. Help yourself.”
And with that, she turned and made for the front door, thankful for the excuse to get out of her house. Living as a hermit may have taught her a few things; it was becoming apparent that patience was not one of them.
After about four days, Oksana claimed that she was back to full health. Eve wasn’t sure what she was using as a measuring stick, seeing as she’d been aggressively working out since that morning with the pushups.
She ran laps around the homestead, she ran up and down the path to the beach, and she even swam once or twice. She continued doing her pushups too, along with whatever other exercises she could think of that would “get her back into shape”.
Eve wasn’t sure how much of it was performative. Oksana’s body had never had the opportunity to get out of shape, given she’d only been at sea for a day or two at most, according to the other woman. Maybe the physical activity was therapeutic, Eve mused.
Either way, it became clear that Oksana was healthy and able to carry on with her life, and so Eve decided to breach the topic of driving her into town that night over dinner.
“You seem to be doing well.”
“Hmm?” Oksana hummed, mouth stuffed with food. They were eating vegetarian lasagna.
“You seem to be doing well,” Eve repeated patiently. “I was wondering if, given your health, you’d given any thought to… uh-”
She’d never had a roommate that she needed to kick out before. It was easier said than done, apparently. Until Oksana solved the problem for her.
“Carrying on?” she offered in her thick accent. “Getting out of your…,” her eyes trailed upwards to the top of Eve’s head before letting her gaze travel along the mane of hair that dropped to her shoulders.
“...hair?” she finally finished.
“Uh. Yes, I suppose that.”
Oksana put down her fork and knife.
“About that. I have been thinking that I have been a terrible house guest. You saved my life but I have done nothing to repay you. I was thinking maybe I could work on your farm for a little while, to thank you.”
Eve had to force herself to keep her jaw from hitting the table. She was glad she didn’t have any food in her mouth, otherwise she might’ve spat it on her guest at that moment.
“You want… to stay?”
Oksana offered her a small smile in return, nodding demurely. The gesture immediately made Eve suspicious.
And yet… the help would be nice. She’d been on her own for so long, and while she never complained (mostly because there was no one to complain to), it would be a nice change to have a set of helping hands around for a little while. Not to mention that Oksana had been a brat and maybe Eve was just a teensy bit curious to know if she could really be anything other than infuriating.
“Okay then,” Eve replied, and before she could change her mind, she offered her hand across the table for Oksana to shake. “You’re hired.”
Chapter 4: Human Connection
Lord guys, i'm sorry its been literal ages. Hopefully y'all still want this content. If it seems like there's been a shift in writing style, my apologies, that's just a product of many months between chapter-writing!
Domesticity came surprisingly easy for someone who’d been living alone on a secluded acreage of land for not an insignificant amount of time. Perhaps more surprising was the casualness with which Oksana reciprocated it.
Not at first, of course. At first, their arrangement held all the awkwardness of the morning after a one night stand, and all the hospitality of a surprise visit from a tax collector.
The first few days passed with Oksana shadowing Eve around the homestead, silently watching her complete chores, listening to her give instructions on hoof trimming, eave cleaning, and shingle replacing. Her calculating eyes seemed to be trying to take everything in at once as if she had never seen someone living in the conditions that Eve had set herself. It was completely possible, of course. Eve thought her situation was quite unique.
Conversations were awkward, a back and forth of questions asked and vague answers barely given. But it went both ways, so Eve couldn’t complain lest she become a hypocrite. Oksana would occasionally ask how Eve had come to the homestead, and mainly why . She seemed to struggle to understand why Eve wanted to live in the middle of nowhere with no one.
Eve told her a bare-bones version of the story: a broken marriage, a lost job, a family death, and all of it leading to her choice to get the hell away from London and all those past traumas. Never once did Oksana press her for more details than she’d given. The respect for those boundaries surprised Eve, and she tried her hardest to respond in kind. But she was just so goddamn curious.
In the middle of their first week together, Eve had tried again to get more information out of Oksana. They were in the canoe, out amongst the oyster racks. Calm waters lapped at the side of their boat, the midmorning sun shining pleasantly above. Gulls called above them, and when Oksana wasn’t glancing up at them with distaste, she was watching Eve with her piercing gaze. It still made Eve feel a bit uncomfortable, but whether because of the girl herself or because it had been so long since Eve had been scrutinized by another person, she wasn’t sure.
She was rummaging through the tools and supplies she’d stored beneath their seat benches, looking for what she needed to fix the broken oyster rack. It was an intentional move that meant she didn’t have to meet Oksana’s stare when she asked, “So what were you doing in Rotterdam?”
Talking to the girl was like trying to approach a hare in the woods without startling it. Over the few days they’d spent together, Eve had learned that certain topics would get her a blank stare, others earned noncommittal grunts and shrugs, but the occasional question made Oksana the closest she’d seen to angry.
Really, just one question, when Eve had asked about her family. She no longer asked those kinds of questions anymore.
Oksana didn’t so much as blink at the question about Rotterdam. Not that Eve could tell, though, bent over and fiddling uselessly as she was.
“I was there on business.”
At that, Eve sat up and glanced at the other woman, trying her best not to appear overly eager. “Oh? What do you do for work?”
The ghost of a smile graced Oksana’s lips before she replied. “If I told you, you would not believe me.”
Oksana seemed to reconsider for a moment. “If I told you, you would not like it.”
Eve had no reply for that, her mouth slightly agape, her mind running wild with the possibilities.
“Jesus, am I harbouring some sort of Russian mafia boss or a... a... KGB agent…,” she muttered to herself. Saying it aloud made her chuckle a bit, however, and the moment passed. “Whatever you say, Oksana.”
And then she was leaning over the side of the canoe, snorkel mask on and boltcutters in hand. She would need to replace the mooring point on the rack but otherwise, it was still functional. From behind her, she thought she heard her companion say something, but she was already moving to dunk her head beneath the waves.
Eve’s attempts to converse with Oksana were proving fruitless, but something did pull a reaction from the woman that wasn’t just a blank stare or a cocky smirk. It was the last thing Eve expected, but once it happened, it was like a switch had been flipped, and suddenly Oksana was no longer a bratty stranger but an actual roommate. Later on, Eve figured it was because the woman had found something to bond with. She had certainly made no secret about her apathy towards Eve, after all.
The thing that got through to Oksana was Molly the goat. The first day Eve had taken her to see the goat, the other woman hadn’t shown much interest in the animal. Eve had demonstrated how to trim Molly’s hooves and Oksana had sniffed disdainfully. And yet, over that first week, Eve caught Oksana sneaking to Molly’s pen no less than eight different times when she’d thought that Eve was otherwise occupied. On that final, eighth time, she’d decided to follow her from a distance, curiosity burning.
There wasn’t much place for her to hide as she followed the young woman out back, but the pen lay on the other side of the vegetable garden, and so Eve had tried her best to duck between the raised planters, hoping the vines of her tomato plants might hide what she was up to.
Oksana was a little ways away from her, her back to her. She crept towards the pen, a small fenced-off area that Molly had all to herself. Sliding the bolt out of its lock, she opened the gate and crouched in the mud, cooing at the goat as she did.
Eve felt her jaw drop.
Molly tottered over to her and Oksana reached a hand up to her scruffy chin, scratching the goat and whispering softly to her in Russian. Eve really couldn’t believe her eyes. Disbelief turned to petty annoyance and she began grumbling under her breath.
“She won’t say more than six words to me at once but she’ll talk to the damn goat ?!”
Her voice raised a little and she made to stand as if to confront the other woman. And then, in a half-crouch, gazing over the tops of green vegetable stalks, Eve stopped.
Oksana was smiling at Molly. Eve could only see that as Molly moseyed around the other woman, forcing Oksana to turn a bit in the dirt to keep scratching her chin adoringly.
Eve felt a fondness bloom in her chest, a foreign sensation not unlike spilling hot tea down the front of her shirt. Only this was less messy and not at all unpleasant, she thought. Until she remembered herself, hunched over in the dirt, staring at someone who was still a stranger to her.
She sighed heavily and ran a hand through the tresses of her bushy hair. After cutting herself off from human connection for so long, she supposed she shouldn’t be too surprised when the reintroduction of it brought feelings long forgotten. Like feeling endearment to someone all because they were being nice to her goat.
Eve shook her head and ducked back towards the house, leaving Oksana with her newfound friend, already setting her mind to the next task that needed completing, content to bury those feelings of human connection once more.
Before Eve knew it, two weeks had passed by, and by then they had fallen into somewhat of a routine. It was akin to having a roommate, she figured. A roommate she knew next to nothing about.
After the first few days of showing Oksana the ropes of tending to the homestead, Eve had been able to leave her unsupervised in most things. Tending to the vegetables, fetching water, repairing miscellaneous items; Oksana excelled at it all. Eve wondered if there was anything she wasn’t good at, and not for the first time wondered at what her life had been like before her shipwreck. What line of work she’d been in, to be so multi-talented.
Eve refused to think of them as talents, of course. Oksana was still a brat, and she would not give her the satisfaction of knowing Eve thought she was handy to have around.
That had come as a surprise, that feeling of enjoyment at having company. After spying on Oksana from the vegetable garden, Eve had been gradually letting go of her dislike of the other woman. Sure, she was still annoying beyond belief, with the attitude of a child regardless of her age, but beggars could not be choosers and Oksana was the only person around for miles. Eve had to begrudgingly admit to herself that she liked the company.
It helped that Oksana seemed to slowly warm up to her, too. Maybe not ‘warm’ by normal human standards, but given that she was an unclaimed castaway and Eve, an isolated hermit, their dynamic began to find its footing surprisingly well. They chatted infrequently but since when was talking so important, anyway? It was a miracle Eve hadn’t lost her voice after years spent alone.
Instead, they shared moments in companionable silence, born from a mutual respect of lives lived in isolation. At least, Eve assumed as much. Oksana never spoke of anyone dear to her, said she had no family back home who would look for her, and Eve knew better than to try asking again. It seemed they were both comfortable with solitude, and so they enjoyed their solitude together.
It began at meals. It was the one time they were guaranteed to be together without a job to do. After the first few days when it became clear that Eve would get no answers from Oksana, and Oksana had asked all the questions of Eve that she had cared to, dinner passed in an unfamiliar silence. Eve might ask Oksana to pass the salt. Oksana might compliment Eve on her cooking. Then, when the meal was done, dishes were cleaned and dried off and put away, and so it went.
The next surprise had come when, at the beginning of their second week together, Oksana started to set the table for meals. She’d learned where everything was kept and when she saw Eve puttering about in the kitchen, probably accusing some appliance of purposefully trying to fuck up her cooking, Oksana would silently pull plates and forks and knives out of their places and set them on the small, wooden dining table. The only acknowledgement of the change was the arched eyebrow Eve shot at her that first night. And then it was the new normal.
It was a far cry from the sort of home life she’d known with Niko, and yet Eve felt that it suited her better. How that came to be found in the form of a twenty-something Russian that lacked basic manners (just because she set tables didn’t make her polite, Eve decided) was beyond her.
Eve was continually surprised by Oksana and the ways in which she was the one to push their domesticity to new stages in those early weeks. One morning she made coffee for Eve. It was far better coffee than Eve had ever made despite being made from the same stuff she’d always used. Eve told her as much, and Oksana began making coffee every morning afterwards.
By the third week, Oksana was sitting with her on the front porch in the mornings. Sometimes she had a book open across her lap, borrowed from one of the many bookshelves. Other mornings she just sat there and would gaze towards the cliffs. Eve didn’t even bother trying to decipher what the other woman was thinking. Her impromptu roommate was a riddle wrapped in an enigma cloaked in a mystery. Eve found herself adapting to that mystery with unprecedented ease.
She figured it was a result of the isolation, like most of her other reactions to Oksana’s presence. It had simply been too long since she’d lived with someone for her to remember the steps to the dance that was normal cohabitation, so they stumbled through it in their own way
It wasn’t until Elena dropped by for a visit, midway through the third week after Oksana’s arrival, that Eve was forced to confront how strange their situation really was.
Chapter 5: In Hot Water
Thanks for the comments y'all, pls keep 'em comin! They help motivate me to keep writing during these troubling times. This a longer chapter since I figured everyones quarantining so why not give y'all more content to pass the time with. Might keep them this long going forward who knows
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Elena showed up as she usually did - with little warning and a lot of dust kicked up on the narrow country lane that led to the homestead. Her blue, ‘07 Volkswagen Jetta looked worse for wear, but she refused to give it up, and the front bumper jostled precariously as she drove unflinchingly over potholes.
Eve saw none of this, standing as she was at the edge of her cliffs, eyes closed and arms stretched wide like the king, or queen, of the world. She smiled to herself as the sea breeze ruffled her hair. It was for this that she had left the cities behind.
So no, Eve did not see Elena pulling into the homestead at all, and hadn’t checked her ancient Nokia phone since rolling out of bed and throwing it unceremoniously into her blankets. She’d rather forgotten that Elena even planned to visit. They usually met at Eve’s for coffee every few months, but with recent happenings at the homestead, it had completely slipped Eve’s mind.
Oksana, though, had spotted Elena long before she reached the front door. She had seen the rising dust along the horizon from her perch on the roof, where she’d been inspecting Eve’s solar panels. A shoddy set up but they got the job done, Eve said. Once it had become clear that this was merely someone who loved driving recklessly versus someone coming to retrieve a certain missing Russian, Oksana had relaxed and hopped nimbly down from the roof and onto the front porch. A few moments later, Elena pulled into the long driveway, unaware of Oksana watching her, and threw open the driver’s side door of her car, still singing whatever song she’d been blasting during the final minutes of her drive.
Eve, wrapped up in her cliffside bliss, heard nothing of Elena’s approaching car or the slam of its door as she arrived, but she couldn’t miss the loud cursing that suddenly cut through the late morning breeze.
“FUCK! I mean- Christ, who are you? Where the hell is Eve?!”
Eve snapped her eyes open and whipped around, the shawl she’d wrapped around herself billowing in the wind. “Fuck,” she muttered to herself before jogging towards the house.
She could see Elena standing with her back to her, clearly more focused on the young and unperplexed stranger standing on the doorstep of the house. She watched Oksana, little shit that she was, give a half shrug and lazy gesture over Elena’s shoulder, and Elena turned at the same moment Eve called out her name.
“Elena! Hey, hi, sorry, I was just-” she gestured offhandedly behind herself, towards the cliffs, “-yeah. Anyways. I completely forgot you were coming by, I’m so sorry! But come on in, we’ll get a pot of coffee going and-”
Elena stood watching her, eyes wide, mouth slightly open in bewilderment. “Um, Eve, you have a… a guest?”
Before Eve could respond, Oksana spoke up. “Unpaid worker, actually.” And when Elena turned back to face the young woman, even more baffled by her Russian accent, Oksana continued, “-and illegal migrant,” before flashing a toothy grin that would not have looked out of place on a child taunting their beleaguered parent.
“Brat,” Eve mumbled, before walking up to Elena and putting a hand on her shoulder. “Elena, sorry, this is Oksana.”
“Right… and you two know each other how? Eve, last I checked your closest neighbour was a ten-minute drive from here, and I distinctly remember that he’s an old Brit with a decaying cattle ranch, not a Russian model.”
Eve watched Oksana preen under the compliment even as the woman answered Elena’s question with a detached “it’s complicated.”
“I believe she was talking to me,” Eve cut in. “But it is complicated. Come on, I’ll tell you about it inside.” Guiding Elena into the house, Eve eyed Oksana when she made to follow. “I meant alone if that’s quite alright with you.”
Oksana rolled her eyes at her. “Fine. I’ll go see what Molly is up to. She’s better company anyway.” And with that she turned on her heel and stalked off. Eve sighed.
Once inside the house, Eve started making a pot of coffee, opening one of the kitchen windows so that the warmth from the boiling water wouldn’t heat up the room too much. It was shaping up to be a hot summer day, and she wanted to keep the inside of the house as cool as possible. Of course, she’d have to close the window again later, before the heat of the day seeped inside, but oh well.
While Eve busied herself in the kitchen, Elena wandered into the living room. She made to throw herself down on the couch but when she saw a pillow and neatly folded blanket, she turned back around to Eve, arms gesturing wildly. “Okay, seriously, what is going on?! She sleeps here?”
Eve turned to face her friend, resting her back against the kitchen counter, hands propped beside her. “I can explain,” she started. “It’s just… well, it’s a bit of a long story honestly.”
“Eve, please, I cleared my day for this, mostly under the assumption we would be going from coffee to coolers to wine and trading stories about the good old days, but this is vastly more interesting. You have a… a… roommate!” Elena walked to the kitchen and settled herself in one of the wooden chairs at the dining table. “Okay, dish.”
Eve tilted her head back, looking at the ceiling like it would show her how to explain things without making her sound crazy. Because it was becoming clear that it might actually have been a little irresponsible to be doing things the way that she had. Elena’s reaction to Oksana’s presence was tearing holes in all of her rationalizations for keeping the castaway in her home.
Not ‘keeping’ her. Just… housing her, for now. Eve shook her head at the thoughts and began telling Elena the story, beginning with the morning after the storm when Oksana had washed up on the racks.
She didn’t think it would be too hard to recount the past few weeks, and yet the more she said, the more she found herself unravelling the threads of the story she’d woven for herself. As she described how she’d found Oksana, how she’d decided against taking her to a hospital, and how she’d let the woman have free rein over her house in the following days and weeks, she was beginning to see what Elena had clearly seen when she’d first spotted Oksana in the doorway.
“So let me get this straight- a complete stranger washes up on your beach-”
“-On my oyster farm-”
“Shut up,” Elena instructed firmly. “Okay, the oyster farm, and then you carry her back to your house. You don’t call the police, or a hospital, or seek any professional medical help. Instead, you just, what, hope for the best !? Then, when she does wake up, she won’t tell you anything about herself. You still don’t notify anyone about this and proceed to strike up some sort of arrangement with her where in exchange for working on your farm she’ll live with you for free for an undetermined amount of time- do I have this right?”
Eve tried to tell Elena that, yes, that was more or less the gist of it, but Elena bulldozed over her.
“- And it never occurred to you that she might be, I don’t know, someone dangerous? Someone unsavoury? I mean, Eve, come on. What kind of person washes up on a stranger’s acreage after a bloody shipwreck and is… is… nonchalant about the whole thing! You’re telling me that in the past three weeks she’s never tried to leave or call someone or anything like that? You know, any of the normal things someone would do after surviving what she’s just been through?”
Eve opened her mouth to argue. She certainly wanted to. She wanted to defend herself and, oddly enough, Oksana. The woman was childish, but she was proving to be helpful around the homestead, and Eve felt a strange kinship with her. They were like two lost souls who’d been adrift, and now they were anchored in the same sheltered cove. But try as she might, she couldn’t find the words.
Elena was right - what she’d done was nothing short of crazy.
Eve pursed her lips, trying to think. Before she could find something to say, Elena broke the silence.
“Alright, I’m sorry for unloading like that on you. It’s just, Eve, you can see this is kind of insane, right?”
“When you put it the way you put it, yeah, I can see it.”
“-But Elena, you have to understand. It’s just been… well, I’ve been out here on my own for a while. I guess I just jumped at the chance to be with another person again, even in a situation as… as fucked up as this.”
At that, Elena’s face softened and she regarded Eve with a look approaching pity. “I know, hun, but you didn’t jump at the chance so much as dive headfirst off those cliffs you love so much.”
Eve chuckled mirthlessly at that, but the sound of it brought a smile to Elena’s lips and soon enough the two of them were laughing like they usually did during Elena’s visits. When the coffee was ready Eve poured them both mugs and sat herself down across from Elena at the table. It wasn’t that the living room was off-limits, but, being Oksana’s makeshift bedroom, Eve thought it might be best to keep Elena away from any more blatant reminders of her reckless living situation.
“So, what are you going to do now?” Elena asked once Eve had settled across from her.
“I don’t know, Elena.” Eve ran her hands through her hair, elbows planted on the table and steam from her mug rising into her face. “I mean, you’ve convinced me that this was kind of rash-”
“-Now you’re talking sense-”
“-But at the same time, it’s working. She helps with the garden, she fixes things before I even know they’re broken, and, god, you should see her with that damn goat.” Eve couldn’t help the affection that seeped into her voice, despite her best efforts to sound exasperated. “Last week I made a comment about the possibility of needing a new goat this year or the next, and you’d think I’d suggested I was going to… I don’t know, castrate her own father or something. Granted, by the way she reacted when I asked about her father, I’m not sure she would really care if something like that happened to him. I don’t know. It’s hard when I don’t know the slightest thing about her.”
Elena’s face flickered through various reactions as Eve spoke: unimpressed, endeared, amused, disgusted. “Okay, I’ll admit that I, too, would be aghast and offended if you suggested getting rid of Molly, but you don’t think the fact that she doesn’t tell you anything about herself might be a little bit of a red flag?”
“Yes, yes, you’ve made that clear,” Eve replied in a huff, waving her hand dismissively. “It’s not like I haven’t tried.”
“Uh huh, uh huh. Speaking of all the things she helps out with…” Elena got a mischievous look in her eye. “She’s not like… she’s not your new Hugo, is she? ‘Cause damn Eve, if she is, I might be able to understand how you decided to overlook all the shady stuff, working with a body like that-”
When Eve understood what Elena was suggesting she felt the blood rush to her face and her eyebrows raise so high that they might as well have joined her hairline. “What?! No, Elena. No. I can’t believe you- no, no. That’s not- no.”
Elena’s grin grew as Eve struggled with her words. “Really? Well. Then it’s still lost on me how you let yourself get stuck in this mess. But I suppose you’re in it now, and you don’t seem too keen on changing anything about it. If you want to put yourself in hot water, who am I to try to keep it from boiling over.”
Eve fought to control her blushing as Elena was talking, and when she thought she had a good handle on it, she trusted herself enough to try speaking again. “She’s not a Hugo situation. Speaking of… I was meaning to… call him.” Eve shook her head to herself before glaring at Elena. “And shut up about ‘hot water’. You sound like Carolyn when you say things like that.”
For a moment, Elena appeared torn between smugness and sympathy. She settled for the latter as she pointed a finger at Eve. “We’re not done talking about Hugo, just so you know. I’m not going to forget you just said you’re thinking of calling him. But I’ll drop it for now. Have you heard from Carolyn at all recently?”
Shooting her friend a withering stare, Eve shook her head again, ignoring the jab about Hugo. “No, but I’m not expecting to. She made it clear when I left that that was the end of things. You’re more likely to hear from her, I’d think. How’s Kenny?”
Elena’s eyes darted around the kitchen. “Oh, he’s, uh, fine. We’re not really speaking at the moment. Please don’t ask, I don’t really feel like talking about it. But yeah, so. That’s that.” She took a sip of her coffee, Eve felt, for no other reason than to prevent more words from pouring out of her mouth. Eve knew the feeling.
“Well, he’s a guy, so, what can you expect?” She laughed disparagingly, trying not to feel guilty about belittling the young man she used to call her friend, especially when he wasn’t around to defend himself.
“Nope! No. No thank you, Elena. That one’s definitely off-limits.”
Elena shrugged. “Fair enough. Do you still…” She looked uncertain. “Do you still talk to Bill?”
Taken by surprise, Eve blinked a few times as Elena’s question settled on her. Did she still talk to Bill? She could hardly remember the last time she’d done it. Probably… probably not since those first few days of tending to Oksana.
“I was, yeah,” Eve answered slowly, considering. “I was up until a few weeks ago, I think. Having another person around, I guess it didn’t seem right anymore.”
“Yeah, cause your new roommate would think you're a nutter.”
“No-” Eve shook her head quickly. “No, it’s more like… my conversations with Bill were a special thing, just between the two of us. With someone else in my home, it’s not really private anymore, and I guess I didn’t want to share… him… with her.”
Elena watched her for a moment before nodding slowly. “That makes sense. You two were always as thick as thieves. No getting in the middle of that dynamic.” Elena laughed, but it had lost some of the cheer from earlier. Talking about Bill always sobered them up right quick. “Do you still think about it?” she asked quietly.
“It’s hard not to,” Eve told her. “But it’s not the same as it was before, either. I don’t think as much about what happened or how I felt about it. Now I remember other things. I think about him and try not to forget him, and how much of a good person he was. You know?”
Elena was nodding as Eve spoke, and she reached across the table to press her hand on top of Eve’s. “I know. I still think he would’ve told you that you’re crazy for moving out here all alone.”
A reserved kind of smile spread along Eve’s lips. “Maybe that’s why I did it.”
“You hear that, Bill? She’s spiteful to the very end, even after you’re long gone!” Elena was addressing the ceiling. Eve laughed in spite of herself. “And you can bet he’d be taking my side about this Oksana business!”
“Oh, you think so, do you?” Eve was laughing in earnest now, and she couldn’t help barking her words at Elena. “You know damn well he’d take my side, knowing there’s a beautiful woman involved.”
“Hah! So you admit she’s beautiful!”
“Well, I’m not blind, Elena. You’re questioning my intelligence today, not my sense of sight.”
“Deflect all you want, Eve.” Elena was grinning at her again. “I’m betting this turns into a Hugo situation before you know it. Oh, and speaking of, what’s this about giving Hugo a call?”
Eve slipped her hand out from under Elena’s and reached across the table to punch her friend in the shoulder. “I’m a human woman, okay? I have needs!”
Whatever else she might’ve said was lost as Elena began cackling loudly, delighted by Eve’s attempts to justify herself.
Sitting with her back against the wood of the house, Oksana let her lips curl into a small, amused smile. Unbeknownst to the women inside, she had hunkered down beneath the very same kitchen window that Eve had decided to open. The voices coming from the kitchen rang clearly out into the midday air, their conversation as entertaining to the young woman beneath the windowsill as it was to the two women inside.
Elena stayed for lunch, and Eve begrudgingly invited Oksana inside to join them. Not that she didn’t mind the younger woman’s company, but she wasn’t thrilled about her being in the same room as Elena, given Elena’s earlier comments about Hugo and her propensity for all things inappropriate.
“Oh shush, Eve,” Elena scolded her playfully after Eve voiced her concerns. “I won’t mention Hugo. Although why you wouldn’t want her to know about your little arrangement with another hot, young-”
Before Elena could finish her sentence, Oksana waltzed in through the front door. The knees of another pair of pants borrowed from Eve were dirty with drying mud. She must’ve been spending time with Molly. Eve resolved that she needed to get Oksana some clothes, if only to keep her own from being completely worn through by summer's end. “Who’s Hugo?”
The glare Eve directed at Elena could’ve shattered glass, but it was all Elena could do not to giggle. She had to shove a hand over her mouth in an attempt to keep it together.
“No one,” Eve muttered. “Lunch is ready, help yourself.”
Oksana raised an eyebrow but otherwise didn’t comment, and didn’t ask about Hugo again. That day.
When it came time for Elena to leave later that afternoon, she paused at the front door and turned back to face Eve. Oksana was somewhere out back, but Elena still lowered her voice a bit just in case.
“So you’ve decided you’re just going to-” Elena waved in the vague direction of the garden“-carry on with this then?”
Eve shrugged. “She’ll want to leave sooner or later, won’t she? Whenever she's ready to leave, she’ll leave, and that’ll be the end of it. Or if I decide I’m ready for her to leave, I’ll kick her out. But right now the company is nice, and I could use an extra set of hands when I harvest the oysters in a few days.”
“Right, right,” Elena rolled her eyes. “Heaven forbid anything happens to your oysters. Well, I’m around if you need me. I mean, if there’s an emergency and it turns out she’s, like, an axe murderer or something, I’m not that around because it takes three hours for me to drive here, but you know what I mean.” They hugged and Elena left, leaving Eve to watch the dust trails rising in puffy columns behind her taillights.
Oksana didn’t comment much on Elena throughout the rest of the day, or over their evening meal, and that suited Eve just fine. When she was about to head to bed she passed Oksana in the living room, laying on the couch and reading one of Eve’s books. Her eyebrows were pulled down in concentration, and Eve would’ve laughed out loud if she hadn’t found it surprisingly cute. Then she spotted the cover of the book.
“Are you reading Nietzsche in German?”
Oksana looked up at her and gave her a secretive smile, like she was in on some joke that Eve was unaware of.
“I am. I’m surprised you had a copy amongst-” she waved at the nearest bookshelf, “-the entire ‘For Dummies’ catalogue.”
“I…,” Eve refused to say what was floating in her mind. It was my husband’s. Instead, she said, “I didn’t really peg you for a philosopher.”
“Oh, I’m not.” She had already returned her eyes to the page in front of her. “But I made a fool of myself one time trying to prove that I could be one, and next time I’m put on the spot, I’d rather not be caught unawares.”
A thousand questions blossomed in Eve’s head, sprouting up like weeds that she couldn’t ignore. She fought the urge to blurt any of them out, though, and instead stared at Oksana for another moment longer.
“Did you just… volunteer personal information about yourself?”
Again, Oksana didn’t look at her. She didn’t indicate that she’d heard Eve at all. Eve sighed.
“You’re a pain, you know that? Anyways, I was coming to tell you that I need to run to a neighbour’s tomorrow morning-”
“Okay, have fun-”
“-And I’ll be taking Molly with me.”
Oksana lowered the book slowly. “Why?”
Eve rolled her eyes at her. “Because she’s going to stop producing milk soon so I need to get her pregnant. Tom Callum is the closest neighbour of mine that also has goats, so I’m going to take her over there tomorrow and try to get her knocked up. Tom and I have a deal worked out already, and don’t worry, Molly will be coming home when it’s done.”
Without missing a beat, and almost as if she’d heard nothing else of what Eve said, Oksana replied, “You seem to have plenty of ‘arrangements’ around here.”
Eve huffed in exasperation. “Just let me know in the morning if you want to come with me. I know how attached you are to the damn goat.” With that, she stalked off to her bedroom, determined to put the cheeky, would-be philosopher out of her mind. It wasn’t until later that it occurred to her that, apparently, Oksana was fluent in German. A riddle wrapped in an enigma.
The next morning, to Eve’s surprise, her houseguest informed her that she would be joining her on the trip to Tom Callum’s farm.
It was still early when Eve marched into the living room and was greeted by the sight of Oksana waiting for her, sitting in the clothes she’d nearly drowned in. A white t-shirt and olive green pants that flared out at the bottom. Eve hadn’t noticed that day, given the state the woman had been in, but it seemed to her now that the clothes were decidedly fancy. Certainly fancier than anything Eve owned, even in their simplicity.
She wondered, not for the first time, what the hell Oksana’s life had been before she washed ashore. She also wondered if the woman missed her own clothes. She’d been borrowing Eve’s for weeks and Eve knew she wasn’t impressed by what she’d found.
To her credit, though, Oksana hadn’t complained after that first day, when she’d given Eve’s wardrobe a disdainful glare. Beggars couldn’t afford to be choosers, after all.
Once they were both ready to go, Eve grabbed two travel mugs filled with coffee and two muffins from a tin in the kitchen. The muffins were lumpy- she wasn’t much of a baker, but they’d turned out okay. The coffee was delicious, as usual, leaving no guesses as to who’d made it that morning. With her arms full, Eve shot Oksana a glare that suggested maybe she could take something from the pile she was struggling to keep together.
“You should not have grabbed so many things if you couldn’t handle it,” was the reply she got. Still, the other woman meandered lazily into the kitchen and stopped in front of Eve, gingerly reaching for one of the mugs and a muffin, lest everything tumble onto the floor at the last second.
It took Eve a moment to realize she was breathing in something other than the smell of coffee and baked goods. Oksana was in front of her, eyes flickering between the two coffee mugs as if one held an Aultmore 21-year-old single malt scotch, and the other, pond water. Eve knew she was doing it to be a nuisance, to push and see how long Eve would go before dropping everything or snapping at her for help. But she'd forgotten the items in her arms, for a moment.
There was something familiar about the scent she was breathing in. She realized, with a start, that Oksana had showered that morning, and had used Eve’s shampoo, which was advertised as smelling like blackberries. None of that was unusual, that had been the routine for a while now. The change came in the form of proximity; it startled Eve to realize that they’d never stood so close. And it was hardly close at all, really. Oksana was the same distance from her as someone might be in line for coffee. Still, the smell of Eve’s own shampoo, filled with what must have been Oksana’s own natural fragrance, caught her off guard in the early light of the morning. Unconsciously, she inhaled deeply and felt strangely warm. It was a good smell, she decided. She liked it.
Someone cleared their throat. Sheepishly, Eve realized that Oksana was no longer playing eenie-meenie-miney-mo with the mugs and was instead staring at her, amused.
“Everything okay, Eve?”
Pleasant scents forgotten, Eve immediately wanted to wipe the smirk off the young woman’s face. She couldn’t, of course, with her hands still full, so instead she did her best to safely dump a mug and muffin into the woman’s arms, trusting her to catch them before they tumbled to the floor. She did. Then Eve marched past her and out the front door.
“Come on,” she called over her shoulder. “Daylight’s wasting.”
“I thought only farmers in American movies said that?” Oksana called, and the laugh she let out at her own joke was a high, tinkling sound that Eve found totally incongruous with the woman it had come from. She didn’t say that, though, and merely stalked around back to the pen.
Once out back, Eve waved idly towards the goat. “Can you get Molly’s halter on her?” she asked before walking over to the nearby shack that served as a poor excuse for a garage. She heard Oksana hum from somewhere behind her and assumed that meant she was doing what she’d asked, and so she turned her attention instead on the garage and the vehicle inside.
Eve’s truck was an aging thing, rusted in some places, mud-plastered in others, and supposedly, once upon a time, white and baby blue all over. She’d bought it used for next to nothing when she’d first moved out to nowhere, and perhaps the biggest surprise of all was that it had lasted past the first year. Hell, past the first month. Eve tried to keep it running as best she could, given how rare it was that she went into town. She would sometimes drive it around the acreage just to keep everything in working order. She hadn’t done that in a few weeks. She hoped it wouldn’t be an issue.
Throwing open rickety double doors, Eve picked her way around various tools and junk until she could wiggle her way into the driver’s side door. She dropped her mug and muffin in the cupholders beside her and put the old key in the ignition.
It took three tries but it did finally start. With a few pops and wheezing kind of groan, she threw it in reverse and backed out of the rundown shack. She spotted Oksana, holding Molly by a loose rope tied to her halter, and angled the truck over to her. Leaving the car running so that it had no opportunity to crap out on her, Eve put it in park and stepped out of the door.
“What is that thing?” Oksana sounded personally offended at the sight of the car.
“My truck. Come on, let’s get the trailer hitched up,” Eve answered, ignoring the obvious way in which the woman clearly wanted to make more disparaging comments about her vehicle.
They hitched the trailer with ease, and Oksana managed to keep the snide remarks to herself, fixated as she was on making sure Molly was cozy and comfortable in her trailer.
“Oksana, please, she’s a goat. She’s been in the trailer before. She’ll be fine,” Eve assured her, trying to usher the other woman towards the front of the truck.
“It’s okay, Molly, I will be back for you soon. I’ll just be up there-” she pointed at the cab. “In fact, if you look through those little holes in your metal box, I bet you could see me the whole time.” She cooed at the goat once more before letting Eve push her to the door. “I have not spent much time around animals, especially not goats. But I like her eyes. They are so fascinating the way they are just-” she stopped climbing into the passenger seat to mime a rectangular shape with her hands.
“You’re awfully chatty this morning,” Eve muttered, closing the door in the woman’s face and circling around to the driver's side.
“I am always chatty with Molly,” Oksana shot back as Eve hopped into the driver’s seat, putting extra emphasis on Molly so that Eve knew exactly who she was not chatty with.
Ready to be on her way, Eve just hummed absentmindedly as she put the truck in gear. She turned and followed the long driveway- it was really just two tire tracks in blackened soil- as it stretched from the garage, along the side of the house, and to the front. There it turned left and met the country road, becoming a wide and dusty lane.
Before Eve had even made it to the end of the driveway, Oksana had begun fiddling with the controls on the dashboard. AC temperature, fan strength, and radio stations, all in a matter of seconds. Eve sighed. It was a short drive to Tom’s, only twenty minutes or so up the way, but she had a creeping suspicion it was going to feel like a much longer trip than that.
Sure enough, Oksana fiddled with things for most of the way, never settling on one, staticky radio station for long, playing with her seat adjustments and delighting herself with Eve’s ancient, turn-crank windows. It wasn’t that it was bothersome, exactly. Eve was focused on the road. But she was hyper-aware of the closed space in which they found themselves, especially when she’d reached for her coffee mug at the same time as Oksana had gone for hers. Their knuckles brushed and Eve almost recoiled at the sensation. Not out of disgust, just unfamiliarity.
She felt on edge. She didn’t like enclosed spaces, that was all. She thought she had a perfectly good reason for that considering what had happened to Bill. Instinctively, she crushed that line of thought with practiced ease.
It was with relief that Eve spotted Tom’s farm approaching up ahead. A welcome sight, the farm was much bigger and better maintained than the homestead. That was to be expected of someone who’d been a farmer all their life, of course. Tom had been born in the very same house that Eve’s beat-up old truck was cruising towards.
“So Tom is… a friend?” Oksana asked, breaking the silence.
“Yeah, I suppose you could say that.” Oksana raised an eyebrow at the response. “Well, he’s one of the only people I see semi-regularly out here, aside from Elena and… uh, Elena,” she tried to clarify.
“He is an adult friend, hm?”
Eve heard the way Oksana unfurled the word in her mouth, lacing it with innuendo, and she barked out a harsh laugh. “Oh no. Tom is a great farmer and handy to have as a neighbour. That’s it. He’s really, really not my type.”
Oksana leaned across the centre console, propping herself up on an elbow. Eve could smell blackberries again, and wondered if Oksana had used much of her shampoo. “What is your type?”
Eve refused to glance over at the other woman, certain she was trying to needle her with some joke. Besides, she hadn’t really been serious about the whole ‘type’ thing. She wasn’t even sure what her ‘type’ would be. Still, she thought it might be funny when she gave a half-shrug and, eyes still fixed on the road, replied, “Younger.”
From the corner of her eye, she watched Oksana’s eyebrows raise in mild surprise before a grin broke out across her face. She was about to say something in response when Eve turned to her and continued, “-than sixty-five.”
Oksana froze with her mouth half-open for merely a second before she recovered, smirking at her, eyes gleaming with a dark kind of amusement. It was a knowing look. Eve found herself held captive by it, if only for a moment.
How could a total stranger look at her as if she knew all of her secrets?
She let out a shaky breath that she hoped might pass for a weak laugh, and turned back to the road, pulling into Tom’s driveway a couple of seconds later. Beside her, she knew, Oksana was still watching her, that infuriating smirk still smugly in place.
in the interest of keeping it spoiler-free, pour one out for you know who
Chapter 6: Opening Up
here is another long one for y'all, the next couple will be a bit shorter
ask for backstory and ye shall receive
Once she’d parked at the end of the long driveway, Eve hopped out of the truck and waved to Tom. The aging farmer was waving back from his front porch a little ways ahead of them. His humble farmhouse was similar to her own; wooden siding with a plain, shingled roof, but where Eve had solar panels, Tom had satellite dishes. She supposed that just because he lived in the middle of nowhere didn’t mean he wanted to be alone all the time.
Tom Callum was a kindly man in his late sixties, with leathery, tanned skin and the physique of a much younger man. Working the farm in his elder years had kept him fit, if a bit wiry, and Eve found herself scrutinizing his body more closely than she had in past visits, as she and Oksana approached the porch.
It was Oksana’s fault, with her suggestive comments about adult friends. She’d never admit it aloud, but it had been a while since Eve had… let go. And Tom was handsome, if old enough to be her father. But she was old enough to be Hugo’s mother, she supposed, although that might be a bit of a stretch. Oksana’s too, for that matter, if she had her estimation right.
Wait. No. She forced that thought out of her mind as soon as she registered it. She did not want to put Tom or Oksana in the same category as Hugo. Hugo was a means to an end, whereas the other two were, well, not that.
Shaking herself, she decided that Tom was objectively good-looking, case closed, and focused on the business she was there for. Beside her, Oksana flashed her a shit-eating grin, and she was wearing one of Eve’s loose-fitting denim jackets. Eve did a double-take.
“Where did you find that?”
Oksana glanced over at her and shrugged. “It was in the back of the truck. You clearly weren’t planning on wearing it.”
No, she hadn’t been. She’d forgotten that she even owned that jacket. She’d thrown it over her shoulder while driving one day, when the heat of the sun was beating through the windows and the AC was failing her. She’d never retrieved it, apparently, and now here it was, shrugged over Oksana’s slim shoulders.
It bothered her, Eve decided, even if she couldn’t explain why. But she couldn’t very well demand that Oksana take it off, not with them climbing the steps to Tom’s front door and, oh, now he was shaking her hand as Oksana introduced herself. Eve was hardly paying attention.
“Welcome to the UK, Billie. I didn’t know Eve brought her American friends to this side of the pond.”
Eve forced herself to stop thinking about the jacket and tuned in to the conversation unfolding before her.
“Oh, I’m not a friend of Eve’s, really. My car broke down not far from here and I managed to make my way to her… charming home. I’ll be back on my way by tomorrow, I expect. But didn’t really feel like sticking around the house alone, you know? It’s kind of nerve-racking out here, all this open, empty space. I’m a city girl.” Oksana finished by letting out an airy laugh.
If Eve’s jaw could have detached from her body it would have, dropping to the wooden deck like a cinderblock. Oksana was talking to Tom so pleasantly, and with a nearly flawless American accent. And Billie? What the fuck was that about?
Not wanting to make the situation any weirder than it already was, Eve played along, albeit uncertainly.
“Hi Tom, sorry, I was lost for a second there.” She laughed. It was horribly shrill. Oksana shot her a look that said she was overdoing it. Eve continued on, “I see you’ve met… Billie. A real bummer about her, uh, car.”
Oksana let out a barely concealed sigh of frustration but otherwise the conversation moved on. Tom smiled at them both with his toothy grin. “Well, little lady, you’re lucky you stumbled across this one-” he nodded his head towards Eve, “-she’ll take good care of you.”
“Oh, she really has been,” Oksana drawled in bubbly American. It was too high pitched, too feminine. Eve found it grating; nothing like the rich velvet Russian she'd gotten so used to.
“Anyways-” she cut in forcibly, “-How about the goats? Billie -” Eve ground out the name between clenched teeth, “-why don’t you go get Molly from the trailer since I know how you hate to be away from her.”
Oksana beamed at Tom as if Eve was just a delight. “Oh, Mr. Callum, I just can’t get enough of this goat, she is the cutest thing. I only just met her, but I think I’d take her with me tomorrow if I could.”
Tom laughed, none the wiser to the battle Eve felt was raging between her and the other woman. “Molly’s a sweet thing, but Eve will never part with her. Sorry, lass.”
Oksana- or Billie, apparently- laughed easily and turned with a flourish, practically skipping to the trailer at the back of the truck. Eve wondered if she wasn’t getting off on the ruse she seemed committed to pulling. Shaking her head, Eve turned back to Tom. “Sorry about that. Can’t wait to be rid of her, honestly. Now, should we talk business?”
The old farmer let out a booming laugh. “Come now, Eve, you know I won’t talk shop without a bit of sausage and eggs first. Come on in, the foods already ready.”
“Oh, I love breakfast food!” Oksana called from the driveway. Eve thought about biting her tongue hard enough to draw blood- it would surely be a more enjoyable experience.
“Well then, tie up that goat and let’s have a meal, shall we?” Tom turned and opened the screen front door. “Come on, it’s getting cold,” he told them, before disappearing into the farmhouse.
Eve let out a resigned sigh. She was about to walk through the door when Oksana pushed past her. The young woman glanced back at Eve over her shoulder, eyes gleaming with mischief, and stuck her tongue out at her. Eve wasn’t sure if she was dumbfounded or irritated, but she swallowed the emotions and followed the girl inside.
The rest of the visit to Tom Callum’s farm was uneventful, all things considered, if incredibly uncomfortable. For Eve, at least, knowing what she knew. Oksana, though, seemed to be having an absolute blast playing at being an American sweetheart, and Tom just seemed glad for the company.
Oh, Tom, there was a time I was glad to have her company too, but when we get back to the homestead I might just send her on her merry fucking way. What the hell is she playing at?
Finally, finally, Eve was shoving Oksana towards the truck as the young woman called out goodbyes to Tom over her shoulder.
Eve waved one last time to Tom before climbing into the driver’s seat. She shot daggers at Oksana, still waving at Tom through the windshield. Still wearing Eve’s jacket. The woman didn’t notice Eve’s look so Eve just grunted and turned the key in the ignition. When the truck rumbled to life, she couldn’t throw it into reverse fast enough.
When they’d backed out of Tom’s long driveway, a much easier feat with the trailer unhitched and left behind, Oksana finally dropped her act. “So when do we come back for Molly?” she asked. Russian accent back in full, it seeped like molasses into Eve’s skin; strangely comforting despite her irritation with the young woman. “Because Tom is, how you say, a national treasure,” the phrase rolled thick and unfamiliar on her tongue, “-but I don’t like the thought of his goats having their way with sweet Molls.”
Eve gripped tightened on the steering wheel, her knuckles turning white. She erupted. “Okay, what the fuck was that?! Billie? American? Broken down car? And you didn’t have to be so rude about my house the whole time. Tom’s is nicer, yeah, but he knows what the fuck he’s doing out here, whereas I tried to hit the ground running and tripped on my first stride. And the second stride. And now I crawl through this… this life with my head held as high as I can possibly manage. But it's hard when some bratty kid comes along and is just so infuriatingly rude about it all. And, and-” Eve turned her eyes from the road to glare at Oksana again. “- Molls ?! Are you fucking kidding me? She’s a goat!”
Oksana waited patiently for Eve to finish her tirade, her fingers tracing the hem of the denim jacket. Idle hands searching for flaws, maybe, Eve wasn’t sure. She was too annoyed to think much about it.
At last, Oksana broke the silence. “I have upset you.” She bit her lip, and Eve could almost believe she felt remorseful. Oksana turned to stare out the window, and her expression was lost to Eve then. “I am… not good at this.”
“At what?” Eve barked, wrestling between anger and her burning curiosity. Curiosity won, as per usual. She was looking back at the road again, but she loosened her grip on the wheel, willing herself to calm down.
“This.” Oksana gestured vaguely between them. “People-things. I like people. People fascinate me, but that doesn’t mean I am good at...” she trailed off, still watching fields go by as Eve sped down the dusty road.
“Well, you don’t exactly make it easy.”
Oksana let out a small laugh, hardly more than a rushed huff of air. “I have never had reason to make it easy.”
Unsure of what to make of that, Eve took a deep breath and tried to settle her nerves for what she was about to do. She wasn’t sure why she felt the need to do it, but she thought it might help, somehow. And sometimes, you just needed to jump off the cliff.
“I moved here a few years ago,” she began, not taking her eyes off the road, “after my divorce and getting fired from my job. It sort of all went to shit after my friend died… was killed.” Eve spared a quick glance at Oksana. The other woman had turned from the window to face her. Before she could speak, Eve carried on. “Don’t say anything, I’m not done yet. And don’t pity me either, I don’t want it. Anyway, that’s how I wound up out here. I’m telling you because that’s what people do when they want to be good at-” she gestured between them “-this. They open up.”
Oksana cocked her head at her. “You have told me some of this before.” Still, Eve thought she was looking at her with a newfound appraisal. Like maybe she hadn’t figured out everything about Eve after all. It made satisfaction well up inside of her chest, a trivial kind of pleasure at knowing that Oksana didn’t know all her secrets just yet.
Which should have been obvious, really, since Eve had hardly told her anything about herself. She smiled ruefully. They made quite a pair.
“I feel like you want me to reciprocate this… honesty.” Oksana was looking at her consideringly. “I’m not going to, but, I could ask more about your past?”
Eve fought the urge to laugh. It seemed the other woman really was trying. “Sure, but only if you’re actually curious. Don’t just ask because it’s what you think you’re supposed to do.”
Oksana frowned at her, and Eve did laugh at that. She was beautiful, but god, she could be as petulant as a spoiled child.
“Why did you lose your job?”
“Really? A divorce and a murdered friend and you start with my employment history?”
“I was trying to be polite, Eve,” Oksana replied levelly, but Eve saw amusement glint in the woman’s eyes. That made Eve feel better; she didn’t want Oksana looking at her like she was some pitiful, broken thing.
“I lost my job because I assaulted someone.”
“You assaulted someone?” Oksana looked torn between skepticism and admiration.
“That’s the technical term, yeah.”
Eve fidgeted in her seat, aware she was about to head down a rabbit hole she couldn’t come back from. “If I’m going to tell you the full story of that, I need to start with some background stuff first.”
Across the console from her, Oksana made a show of making herself comfortable, wedging herself between the door and the seat so that she was half facing Eve. Flashing a cheeky grin, she pulled the denim jacket tighter around her as if to show she was comfortable and ready for storytime.
Eve took a deep breath. “Well, first off, I should probably start with Bill...”
Eve threw her head back, her laugh loud and unrestrained as Bill frowned at her. He didn’t mind when she laughed at him, they teased each other all the time, but it was that she was doing it so unabashedly, at the high counter of the bar, and drawing glances from the patrons around them.
“Do you have to be so enthusiastic about my suffering?” he asked her, only half-pretending to be glum. “If Niko had you sleeping out on the patio in this weather, you damn well wouldn’t be laughing!”
Eve grinned at Bill before taking another sip of her drink. She felt good; loose and carefree. “Maybe not, but you certainly would be. Come on, what did you do?” She reached over and gave him a light shove on the shoulder. “What did you do?”
Bill turned from her and signalled to the bartender. “I don’t want to talk about it anymore. Let’s change the subject, shall we? What I’d like to know is when you’re finally going to pay me back for all the times I’ve covered your tab.” He handed the bartender his credit card.
Eve downed her drink, feeling hard ice clink against her teeth and the last of the gin sear a pleasant burn on its way down her throat. “How ‘bout when I get that promotion? Shouldn’t be too long now, I’ve only been working for Carolyn’s for nearly ten years. You know that was my first real job out of university?”
“Hm,” Bill hummed absently, tapping his pin code into the machine. “Well, whenever you do get that promotion, make sure to set aside nearly three hundred pounds for me.”
“Yeah, yeah, just as soon as Niko and I take that vacation we’ve always talked about. Then the money’s all yours.”
Tab settled, they stood from their barstools and put on their jackets. It had been raining for three days straight in London, and while it was almost impossible to avoid getting wet, neither of them fancied going home drenched to the bone. The bartender waved them out and Bill led Eve through the heavy door of the bar. Outside, it was dark and dreary and well past midnight. Eve might’ve cursed to herself for losing track of time- Niko wouldn’t be pleased- except that she just couldn’t find it in herself to care at the moment. Nights out with Bill always did that to her, and she knew she would feel it come morning.
As Bill began to lead them towards the nearest metro station, Eve felt her phone buzzing in her jacket pocket. She pulled it out, trying to shield it from the downpour, and saw Niko’s contact illuminating her screen with an incoming phone call. “Shit, Bill, I’ve gotta take this.”
“Say hi to Niko from me. I’ll give you some privacy,” he chortled to himself, well aware that Eve was about to be chastised for being out so late. Eve stuck her tongue out at Bill’s back as he wandered the sidewalk in front of her.
Moving over to the wall of a nearby building, she answered the call with as much enthusiasm as she could muster. “Hi honey! What’s up?”
“‘What’s up’? Eve, do you have any idea what time it is?”
Eve squinted at the tiny digital numbers along the top of her phone screen. “Late?”
Niko sighed in exasperation. “Are you with Bill? Are you coming home tonight?”
Eve flinched. The question teetered too close to an accusation. “Yes, I’m with Bill, and yes, I’m coming home. We’re heading to the train right now.”
“Do you know if the trains are still running this late?”
“Uh-” Eve stammered. “Well, we’ll figure it out.”
Wrong answer. Niko huffed and Eve almost thought she could feel the force of his breath through the phone. “Of course you will. Just- if you need anything, just call me, Eve. I am your husband, you know, not your babysitter.”
Eve frowned at the words but otherwise let the conversation die out. “I know, honey. I’ll see you soon, okay? But don’t wait up. I’ll be quiet when I come in, I promise.” She didn’t wait for Niko to answer, instead ending the call and shoving her phone back into her pocket. “Buzzkill,” she muttered under her breath, and then regretted it. It wasn’t fair to say that about Niko, really. He was just worried about her, like any good husband would be when his wife didn’t come home and didn’t call. She shook her head and pushed off the wall, ready to catch up with Bill.
The phone call had hardly lasted a few minutes, but already it seemed that Bill was well ahead of her. In fact, she couldn’t see him at all. Taking a few shaky steps- the liquor was still in her blood even if it wasn’t making her feel good anymore- she called out Bill’s name.
“Bill! I’m done on the phone now. Niko wants me home, let’s go. Where are you?”
She could see to the end of the block and halfway down the next one. The streetlights cast an eerie glow along the sidewalk in front of her, reflecting dim halos in puddles and slick cement under the rain. “Bill!” Eve called again, walking as she went.
A little way in front of her, a man burst from the mouth of an alley. He was tall but hunched over, and the hood of his black jacket had fallen back from his face, blonde hair slick from the torrent of rain. He spotted Eve, and she found herself staring into blue eyes widened with fear and adrenaline. He turned and dashed down the street in the opposite direction from her.
Something constricted unpleasantly in her gut. Intuition, instinct. Fight or flight. She crept nervously towards the mouth of the alley, even if she wasn’t sure why. “...Bill? Oh my god!”
In the damp, murky alleyway, Bill lay motionless. A puddle spread out from his body, too dark to be water.
“Bill! Oh my god. Somebody help me!” Eve screamed. She kept screaming as she ran to Bill’s body. His jacket lay undone. A dark spot had blossomed along the white of his shirt, beneath his ribs. With trembling hands, Eve ripped at the fabric. Beneath, two large stab wounds lay open and gushing. Deep. They were deep and ugly and red and- Eve thought she might throw up.
“Bill, it’s okay. Just stay with me.” She wasn’t even sure if he could hear her. Wasn’t even sure if he was alive. His chest didn’t appear to be rising. She was panicking and she couldn’t find a heartbeat. Fishing in her coat pocket, she grasped at her phone with blood-soaked hands.
“Come on, come on, come on.” With one hand she dialed 999, smudging the screen with blood. With the other, she shrugged off her jacket and balled it up on Bill’s wounds. It was nylon and plastic and not at all absorbent. She cried out for help one more time before an emergency responder answered the phone. She tried to give details, relevant information, between her broken sobs. She must’ve done alright because they told her that help was on the way.
“You hear that, Bill? Help is on the way,” she whispered, throat hoarse from yelling. “Just stay with me, you big ox, just hang on.”
The empty alleyway swallowed her up. All that existed was the press of her jacket against Bill’s body, the mingling of her tears with his blood as she willed him not to die.
Eve kept her eyes fixed on the road in front of her, trying to will Oksana to look away from her. She retold the story with practiced precision- it was far from the first time she’d had to do it- but this time had been different. It was the first time she’d told it in private, to a stranger, she realized. That was what Oksana was, after all. A complete stranger. And here she was, spilling her secrets with ease, like blood pouring from a wound.
Bad analogy, she thought to herself.
She hadn’t cried, which was a relief, but she hadn’t been completely stoic either. She hated the way her voice had caught on the small details of that night. Oksana hadn’t made a sound, and Eve felt the woman’s gaze settling on her like a burial shroud; light, but significant. Laced with something adjacent to understanding. Eve cleared her throat.
“The paramedics didn’t get there in time, though, and uh, he died there, in that alley. I was a wreck, of course, but when they got me calmed down I gave a statement to the police.” Eve ran one hand through her hair. She could feel Oksana’s gaze follow the motion.
“Memory is funny, you know? With things like that. I remembered every detail of that guy who ran out of the alleyway, right down to the tiny little brand name stitched onto his jacket and the burn of a lighter through the wrist of his left sleeve. But by the time I got home that night, or, morning, I guess, I couldn’t even remember what the last thing I said to him was. Bill, I mean. Whatever it was, it was totally meaningless. Just like my trying to save his life. It didn’t do anything- it just-”
She pounded the grip of the steering wheel in frustration. Oksana chose that moment to speak up.
“It wasn’t meaningless." Oksana was looking ahead out the windshield. "He probably knew you were there. Death is never as quick as you think it is,” she shrugged, near-emotionless. “I’m sure he felt you there with him, in the end.”
Eve knew it was meant to help her, make her feel better, but it chilled her to hear the detachment with which the other woman spoke. Like she was sympathetic, but couldn’t quite comprehend the pain of losing Bill. Not really. Eve wondered if that was because she had never lost someone of her own. Maybe she’d never had someone to lose.
“What happened next?”
The question surprised her. She’d been lost in thought. The homestead came into view on the horizon, the midday sun beating down on the fields around them.
“We’re almost back-” she stopped herself from saying home. It was her home but it wasn’t Oksana’s. She didn’t want to apply the term to both of them. “-to the house. I probably can’t finish the whole story before we get there.”
Beside her, Oksana shrugged. “I have no other plans for today. Now, get to the good stuff. Tell me about the assault.”
Eve could’ve sworn the other woman was actually excited about the prospect of Eve harming another person. She smiled in spite of herself, in spite of the memory of Bill’s death, and she ran a hand through her hair again. “Alright, if you insist…”
“All rise, the Crown Court of England, Criminal Division, is now in session, the Honorable Judge Williams presiding.”
Eve watched Judge Williams enter the courtroom. He was a big man, with rich brown skin and a clean-shaven head. She thought he looked just and righteous and fair. She hoped. Maybe she was projecting her own senses upon the man.
Everyone in the courtroom sat down, except the jury, who were sworn in. Eve scanned their faces from her seat near the front of the room. Were they just? Impartial? She couldn’t tell from merely looking at them.
Had any of them watched their closest friend die? Had any of them spent minutes- hours- scrubbing blood, their friend’s blood, off their hands? Supposedly not, or else that would make them biased. Eve tasted bile in her mouth.
Niko, sitting beside her, reached for her hand. She pulled hers away.
She was already finding it hard to pay attention to what was being said. The opening statements passed quickly enough, each lawyer laying the foundations of their case before the court. Eve’s eyes never left the man seated on the side of the defence, shoulders hunched as his lawyer addressed the room.
Miles Whittaker. They told her that he’d only wanted Bill’s wallet. She clenched her fist, and let her nails press deep into the palm of her hand. It should’ve hurt, but she only felt cold.
The defence planned to paint Miles as a suffering youth. In need of a little money and out of all other options, he’d resorted to muggings and robberies in the darkness of London’s side streets. Usually, he left people frightened but unharmed. Eve still didn’t understand why Bill had been different.
She heard her name called. First witness. Only witness. She rose and made her way to the stand, fist still clenched, nails still digging. She swore on a Bible even though she wasn’t much for Catholicism. Niko was, though, and he’d notice if she didn’t. Why that mattered, at that moment, was beyond her.
Prosecution first. She answered as they had practiced: clearly, concisely, with as much emphasis on Whittaker as possible. How she’d seen him, his demeanor, his fleeing the scene. Then Bill’s wounds, her attempts to save him. It was flawless, she supposed, as far as witness testimony went.
“The defence may cross-examine the witness.”
Her jaw wanted to wire shut but she pushed her tongue into her cheek, forcing a gap between her teeth to make it easier to open her mouth and answer.
“Ms. Polastri-” it grated, she decided. The last name. And the lawyer’s voice, too. “-you say you saw Mr. Whittaker fleeing the scene. Did you or did you not see a weapon in Mr. Whittaker’s possession?”
Eve wanted to grind her teeth. She kept her tongue in place, and almost bit it off. “I did not.”
“And Ms. Polastri, did you or did you not see Mr. Whittaker commit the crime of which he’s accused?”
“You mean murder? Did I see him murder my friend and let him bleed to death in an alley?”
“Yes, Ms. Polastri. Did you or did you not see the alleged murder happen?”
“There was no one else around. I watched him run out-”
“Did you or did you not see Mr. Whittaker stab Mr. Pargrave with a knife, with malicious intent, his aim being to kill?”
Eve let one hand fall to the thigh of her slacks. A ballpoint pen lay in the pocket. She’d forgotten she’d put it there, the last time she’d worn the pants. Whenever that had been. Probably on some work trip with Bill. “I did not.”
“Thank you. Last question Ms. Polastri-”
“Would you stop calling me that?!” Eve erupted.
The lawyer looked startled. “That is your name, is it not?”
Eve tried to compose herself. She wasn’t even sure why she’d lost her temper. Except that this lawyer was infuriating, and being Ms. Polastri was infuriating, and Bill- Bill was cold and dead in the ground. “Yes, it’s my name. Ask what you were going to ask me.”
The lawyer nodded slowly before carrying on. “Last question. You and Mr. Pargrave had been drinking quite heavily that night, had you not?”
“I don’t see what that’s got to do with anyth-”
“Are you aware that the paramedics recorded a blood-alcohol content of 0.09% when they treated you at the scene of the alleged crime?”
Eve was silent. From the corner of her eye, she saw the lawyer representing the prosecution lay his fingers across his brow. He looked angry, Eve thought. She knew it wasn’t directed at her, but she felt responsible.
“No. I was not aware.”
“Let the record show that the legal limit in London is 0.08-”
“Objection, your Honor-” the prosecutor rose, hands planted firmly on the table in front of him. “This is not a case of impaired driving-”
Eve reconsidered her opinion of the Honorable Judge Williams. The defence attorney took the opportunity to address the courtroom.
“ Let the record show that Ms. Polastri had a BAC of 0.09%, the symptoms of which include blurry vision, trouble focusing, and impaired short term memory function. We, the defence, feel it is therefore necessary to question the reliability of Ms. Polastri’s statement to the police and subsequent recollections of the event. That will be all, your Honor.”
Judge Williams turned to Eve. “You may step down.”
She left the stand, hardly aware of her hand in her pocket. She wasn’t supposed to approach the defence, she knew, but her legs worked of their own accord. The judge called her name-
-but she didn’t think God themself could make her respond to that title anymore.
The bailiff reacted just a bit too slowly. The defence attorney hardly thought she was a threat. Eve withdrew the ballpoint pen from her pocket and clicked it once. She closed the bit of distance in two short strides and was rewarded with Miles Whittaker, tilting his head to look up at her, solemnness turned to panic as he saw her clenched fist. Her eyes flickered to his hands splayed on the wood grain table. It was hickory, or sandalwood, maybe.
Eve raised her hand and brought it down in a flash, with all the effort she could muster. She faintly registered the sound of someone screaming.
“You stabbed a man? With a pen?!”
Oksana looked downright giddy. Eve knew she shouldn’t find the woman’s reaction entertaining, but she did. She was glad someone no longer looked at her with pity or horror. Maybe Oksana did understand; maybe she was delighted by the justice in it.
“Between his index and middle metacarpals.”
Oksana just nodded with something close to excitement. “That would’ve hurt like a bitch.”
“Bled like a stuck pig,” Eve replied. Normally she wasn’t so cavalier about it, but everyone had always made her feel so guilty. She was feeding off of Oksana's enthusiasm. Besides, the man had killed Bill. She thought she was entitled to a bit of unethical behaviour.
They were still sitting in the truck, windows rolled down in the heat. Eve had parked it nearly twenty minutes ago but they’d stayed until she had finished the story.
“And your friend, Elena, she is okay with your past actions?”
It wasn’t the question Eve had expected, but Oksana asked it with such an earnest intensity that it seemed to be the most important thing to her in that moment.
“Yeah, she came around. At first, everyone was a bit edgy, but I tried therapy for a bit and Elena and I have talked it through more times than I care to recount. She understands that I wasn’t really myself when it happened. Grieving, and all.”
Oksana nodded before continuing, “How are you not in jail? Eve, if you’d aimed for his eyes you could have killed him.” She did not sound the slightest bit disturbed by the possibility.
“There is no way that would hold up in court, not after what you did. They’d say he was under duress.” Oksana seemed almost half-speaking to herself, her fingers tapping against her chin.
“They had the murder weapon. He’d tried to hide it, but when they found it and presented it in court, he confessed flat out. Even with the damage I did to the prosecution’s case, the defence couldn’t deny the evidence. As for why I’m not in jail-” Eve suddenly felt the exhilaration wearing off.
“He didn’t press charges. He was… he was really sorry for what happened. He said that the lawyers wanted to paint me as an unreliable witness, but from the beginning, he’d wanted to confess. He was so scared. He really didn’t mean to kill him. And my boss put in a good word, in a sense. She told them that I was in shock, basically near insanity when I’d done it. I probably was, if I thought it was an okay idea to stab a guy with a pen.”
Just then, Eve felt the last of her energy drain out of her. Oksana seemed to realize it. The young woman took a breath to calm herself before asking, “And your job?”
Eve let out a small laugh. “Right, back to your original question. My boss worked in law enforcement. She helped me out with the logistics when it became clear that Miles wasn’t going to press charges. She arranged for me to kind of walk free, on two conditions. One being that I agree to a restraining order that said I could never be within 1000 feet of Miles, which was definitely fine by me and easy considering he’s locked up now. The second was that I attend anger and grief management workshops for a period of time after the trial. I went to a few, and then I moved. But firing me had nothing to do with that. She just couldn’t keep me in the workplace after what I’d done to Miles.”
Oksana was silent for a few moments, no doubt taking in all the information. Eve wondered if she still felt safe with her. She’d just confessed to violently assaulting a man. She worried, for a moment, that Oksana might leave her.
It worried her, that that would worry her.
Finally, Oksana broke the silence. “And your husband…?”
Eve could’ve cried with relief and immediately felt silly for it. But Oksana wasn’t going to leave. She wasn’t even upset. Eve let none of that show, however, and replied coyly, “If you’re going to ask about the marriage, that fell apart all on its own.”
Oksana arched an eyebrow at her, lips pulling into an amused smile. “Fair enough.”
Before she knew what she was doing, Eve was smiling back.
As they finally made to leave the truck, Eve found herself glad that she hadn’t told Oksana everything about her past trauma. She found that she liked the way the other woman looked at her, now. She didn’t want that to change, and it might, if she told her the rest.
Like about the nightmares that had plagued her for years after the trial. Or how she couldn’t leave the house for months after Bill’s death; it was amazing how many alleyways there were in London. And then she’d become some kind of claustrophobic, and her chest tightened when she so much as thought of a city, or an elevator, or the inside of a concrete cell, so she’d bolted as soon as she’d been able to pack up and leave Niko.
Last of all, she decided not to mention the way she would sometimes roll a ballpoint pen in the palm of her hand, feeling the weight almost unconsciously. That hadn’t even come up in therapy.
Eve shook herself, realizing Oksana had already shut the passenger side door, and she jumped out to follow her. As they were walking from the old garage to the house, Eve realized that something else was nagging at her.
“You know what?” She gave Oksana’s shoulder a playful shove without thinking. “You still haven’t explained this Billie nonsense to me. And I know, I know- you don’t want to share personal information like I did, but at least riddle me that one, hmm? Tom’s going to be pretty confused if you show up with me when I go back for Molly and you’re still Billie with the broken down car who’s supposed to be gone tomorrow.” Eve was doing her best Valley Girl impression.
Oksana shrugged. “I didn’t want him to know who I was.”
“Why not? Seems a bit sketchy, don’t you think? You know, if you weren’t so obviously Russian, I’d be wondering if you'd used a fake name on me too.” Eve narrowed her eyes, remembering the perfect American accent. “You are Russian… aren’t you?”
Oksana stopped walking and stood for a moment, watching her with smirking lips. “Are you worried, Eve?”
Eve thought about it and surprised herself when she answered, “No.”
If Oksana could handle Eve stabbing a man with a pen, surely Eve could handle whatever demons the young woman was hiding. She would just have to trust that she was who she said she was. It surprised Eve to realize that she already did, although whether or not that was wise was still up for debate.
“Good.” Oksana resumed walking towards the house.
“Hey,” Eve called out, catching up to her in a few quick strides. “You didn’t really answer my question about the Billie thing.”
Oksana didn’t meet her gaze. “I am good at impressions. I haven’t tried one out in a while. It was fun.”
They reached the back door of the house and Oksana pulled it open, holding it for Eve to go through ahead of her. Eve let out a disbelieving snort at the woman’s excuses but she knew a dead end when she saw one. “Alright, I’ll stop asking. Just give me a little warning next time.”
Oksana’s eyebrows raised at the mention of a ‘next time’. Then, grinning widely, she said, “I knew you would warm up to me.”
Eve refused to reply, embarrassed as she was by her slip up. Only slightly, though. Mostly, she felt absurdly pleased with herself for having made Oksana smile so freely.
Chapter 7: Losing Composure
jesus fuck is anyone alive after last night's ep???
i've been doing a better job of replying to comments cause i want yall to know how much i love and appreciate them <3 also, thinking of updating on Mondays or Tuesdays from here on out, hope that’s cool with y’all
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The following days passed easily, if differently, from the first few weeks of Oksana’s stay. They talked more over meals; about inconsequential things like the weather and the garden, but it was progress, Eve thought. Before the trip to Tom’s, they had only conversed in bits and pieces, but now they spoke like- well, like strangers. But strangers who maybe wanted to be acquaintances, someday.
‘Someday’ could be a distant thing, or tomorrow bound. Time moved differently living alone, away from the world and a stone’s throw from the sea. Everything slowed down to nature’s pace; sunsets, turning tides, and changing winds marked the hours. It startled Eve to realize, as she dressed herself that morning, that four weeks had passed since the storm, and the shipwreck, and everything brought with it.
“And I still know nothing about her,” Eve murmured. Their conversations hadn’t strayed to the personal since the day in the truck when Eve had told her life story.
Well, just the past five years or so of it.
It came as a surprise then, later that day, when Oksana asked her something a touch more intimate.
They were sitting in the canoe, out on the water, with Eve preparing to harvest racks four through six. She had just stripped down to her swimsuit, a conservative one-piece, and was pulling her wetsuit out from under her bench. A sidelong glance told her that Oksana was watching her, eyes flickering along her body. Eve tried to ignore the fact that this was the most undressed she’d been around the other woman. She hadn’t forgotten that she’d seen Oksana next to naked, weeks ago when they'd first met. A part of her supposed this was only fair.
“Were you and Bill sleeping together?”
Eve was zipping up the wetsuit when she asked. She paused, one hand still on the zipper, and looked over at Oksana. “No.” She pursed her lips. “Why would you ask that?”
Oksana shrugged. “He was a very close friend of yours, and you suggested that your husband was insecure about your relationship with him. It was reasonable speculation.”
Eve shook her head and continued getting ready. With her wetsuit on, she reached for her snorkel mask and flippers. Before slipping the mask on, she threw her hair into a messy bun. Oksana looked like she wanted to say something but thought better of it.
“Bill was my closest friend, and sure we flirted and teased sometimes, but it was never anything more than that, and certainly never anything romantic. It was just a really good friendship.” Eve reached for her wire cutters. “Haven’t you ever had something like that?”
Oksana quirked an eyebrow. She might’ve been amused that Eve had asked a personal question and disguised it as a natural follow-up remark. Eve had only half meant it seriously. She didn’t expect an answer, and yet-
“No. I did not have many friends back home. I had one person who could maybe fit that description, but he was closer to family, and definitely not someone to sleep with.” She grinned at Eve. “Not that that would have been an issue. I have had plenty of lovers, you know. Many lovers. But no, no one like your Bill.”
Eve felt her cheeks grow warm at the word: lovers. She was a grown woman, she had her own situation with Hugo and she wasn’t a stranger to sex. But Oksana made it sound different. Elegant, maybe, but dirty too, in a way that Eve found herself craving. She tried to swallow and found her throat suddenly dry. It really had been too long since she’d gotten laid.
As if she could read her mind, Oksana caught her with one more question before she hauled herself over the side of the canoe. “And what about this man Elena mentioned- Hugo? Have you two ever-”
Eve cut her off with a splash, tossing herself ungracefully into the water so she could ignore the woman’s taunting voice. She would’ve ground her teeth if the mouthpiece of her mask wasn’t between them. Still, she felt flushed even in the cold water. Embarrassed, somehow, and coiled with a peculiar tension. She forced it from her mind and set to the task at hand.
The floating beams bobbed with the gentle lapping of the waves. Beneath them, vertically suspended rods hung like stiff drapes. Immobile beaded curtains, rigid in the shallows. They weren’t very long- Eve had to be able to manage them on her own- but with Oksana helping from the boat the process would go by much quicker and easier than usual.
Eve had hated this part when she’d first moved to the coast and started her farm. She had hated being submerged in the open water, how it had made her feel small and vulnerable. The water was murky most of the time, and it unnerved her being unable to see more than 15 feet in front of her.
But, like everything that had come with her new lifestyle, she had just learned to adapt. In that first year, she would come down to the water and suit up and force herself to swim and dive and exist in the openness of the ocean. She supposed it was akin to exposure therapy. She wondered if her old therapist would be proud.
Over time, she had grown to love it. The peace and quiet, and the way her body moved and felt like it was made of air.
Swimming to the first rod, she unclipped the wire that kept it fastened to the beam on the surface. It was made of lightweight wood but it still weighed her down, waterlogged and teeming with big, mature oysters. She hefted it up to the surface and pushed it towards the canoe. Oksana reached into the water and hauled it out with ease. Eve avoided her gaze. Tension still knotted somewhere below her gut.
Each rack held four submerged rods. It took them two trips to harvest all three racks since the canoe filled up quickly with the oyster-ridden poles. When they were finally done, the sun had passed its zenith, and Eve’s stomach rumbled under the soaking material of her suit. But the job wasn’t quite finished. They still had to get the oysters back to the homestead, and eventually, into the freezer.
They brought the canoe back to the shore and Eve stripped out of her wetsuit. She towelled off quickly and threw her shorts and tank top back on. Meanwhile, Oksana was unloading the oyster rods from the boat.
“You couldn’t have picked a simpler hobby, hm?”
She was trying to lift three of the rods under one arm. And she was managing, Eve noticed, if barely. Her eyes were drawn to the taut muscles of Oksana's shoulders and arms, easily visible now that she had also stripped to one of Eve’s tank tops. Eve almost let her continue to struggle, enjoying the way the other woman was straining while still trying to look cool and collected.
It had nothing to do with her smooth skin, bare and basking in the bright light of the sun. Nothing. Eve turned away.
“Come on. I have something that makes it easier.” She didn’t check to see if Oksana followed her as she walked up the beach.
At the bottom of the slope they would have to climb, a small cove was nestled into the cliffside. In it, Eve had stored two carrying poles, each with wicker baskets dangling from the ends. She picked one up and thrust it towards Oksana. “Here. Put three in each basket and try not to let it slip off your shoulders as you walk.”
Oksana grabbed the pole from her, grumbling, and Eve fought the urge to grin. It seemed she was finally breaking the woman’s composure. Even if it was only done through gruelling manual labour, Eve found it deliciously satisfying nonetheless.
As if to prove she wasn’t bothered by a bit of physical exertion, Oksana quickly filled her baskets and then hoisted the pole over her head and placed it across her shoulders. She hardly looked back at Eve as she started up the pathway along the slopeside, beginning with a few stairs before it turned into a steep, winding trail.
Eve followed and they walked in silence. She tried not to stare at the taut muscles lining Oksana’s shoulder blades, and resolved to stare at the woman’s boot heels instead.
In the heat of the day, it didn’t take long for them to become coated in sweat and breathing heavily. They finally reached the end of the steep trail. It levelled out along the ridge of the cliffs and led straight as an arrow back to the homestead.
Eve paused at the summit, putting her pole down for a moment to catch her breath as Oksana did the same. Eve glanced at her and was rewarded with a view of the other woman panting slightly, massaging the base of her neck. She tilted her head to the side, exposing the length of her jaw, and Eve’s eyes followed the motion like a moth to a flame. She suddenly felt very thirsty.
“It’s hot out,” she blurted.
Oksana had let her eyes drift shut as she’d rubbed at her neck. She didn’t bother to open them when she replied.
Baby hairs clung to her temples. A bead of sweat slipped from behind her ear down the rigid tendons of her neck. Eve shook herself. She really had been alone for too long if she was beginning to ogle at Oksana, of all people; a stranger and a nuisance, if a striking one.
“Come on, we’re almost there.”
She hefted her pole back across the ridge of her shoulders and took the lead. All the way back to the house she argued with herself, convincing then dissuading then convincing herself again that she should give her adult friend a call.
The nail in the coffin came when they finally reached the homestead. Drenched and in need of a cold drink, Eve immediately dropped her baskets and went to the kitchen to grab some water for the two of them. When she came back outside, Oksana had taken it upon herself to turn on Eve’s gardening hose and was spraying it across her face and chest to cool off. Only for a few seconds, but it was enough.
Condensation trickled through Eve’s fingers, running off the cold glasses in her hands. She faintly registered that she was staring. Oksana turned off the faucet mere seconds after she’d opened it, but the damage was done. Water droplets ran along her collarbones and disappeared into lower places unknown, and Eve stood hypnotized by the process.
Before Oksana could catch her watching, Eve turned on her heel and marched straight-backed into the house.
That’s it. She definitely did not want to be leering at Oksana. That would be… complicated. She settled on a plan that would hopefully put an end to that, and to the simmering knot of tension within her.
With everything that had happened in her past life, Eve had long since learned to let go of shame. The outburst at the trial. The dissolution of her marriage. Walking, arms full of boxes, out of the unsympathetic office building where she’d worked for ten years. It took a lot, now, to make her feel ashamed of herself.
That wasn’t to say she was completely immune to it, though, and it bloomed in her gut, loud and unsightly, when she picked up her phone and found Hugo’s contact info:
‘Hugo (Human Dildo) Turner’
That had been Elena. Eve had never bothered to change it; it usually entertained her. This time though, it only made the unpleasant discomfort in her stomach loom larger, and twist tighter.
She texted him hastily, jamming her fingers impatiently against the ancient keys of her phone. The T9 text system felt archaic, medieval. Maybe this would be the year she finally sprung for a fancy smartphone. It seemed frivolous though, considering her limited savings. She put it out of her mind as she hit send.
Usually, she felt a bit playful, texting Hugo like this. Asking him to come over later with little explanation. Not that he needed one- he knew what her texts meant. This time, a booty call had never felt so grimy. Eve couldn’t figure out why.
It’s just sex, she told herself. And you clearly need it.
He replied to her text far too quickly.
“I thought you’d never ask”, written with a winky face. Something a little too close to disgust was creeping up her throat. She ignored it. He would be there around 10pm. Eve hoped Oksana would be asleep, but it was a meagre chance. The other woman tended to stay up reading long after Eve had retired to her room.
Thinking of Oksana, she felt a horrid knot in her chest. Was she supposed to tell the other woman that she was going to be occupied that evening? But even thinking of that, she realized she could never let Hugo within five feet of Oksana. The thought alone of that scenario nearly made her combust with the heat of her humiliation.
She would just have to take her late-night tryst out of the house. It wouldn’t be the first time they’d done it, it would just be the first time that Eve felt it was necessary.
She tried not to feel repulsed by herself. Was she seriously about to call a one night stand because she couldn’t go without sex for one minute longer? She didn’t even feel particularly horny, it was just-
The unbidden image of Oksana craning her neck in the hot, summer sun, flashed in her mind.
Yeah. She just needed to take the edge off.
Showered and fed, oysters packed away in the fridge and freezer, she and Oksana had both gone their own ways for the rest of the afternoon and early evening. Eve found herself spending an inordinate amount of time trying to read a book and getting nowhere. It seemed like, aside from the oyster harvest, the entire day was going to be a write off for her. Oksana, meanwhile, had told Eve that she was going to workout. Before leaving the house she’d glanced back at Eve, a wicked smile on her lips, slinging Eve’s old denim jacket over one shoulder. Eve knew she wouldn’t be wearing it, it was far too hot out. The gesture had merely been another one of Oksana’s attempts to nettle her.
It didn’t succeed, per se. It simply fed into the festering tension in her gut, that thing that was making her feel out of sorts. She tried to ignore it.
Dinner passed without much fanfare. Eve still felt jittery but Oksana didn’t seem to notice. Or if she did, she didn’t comment. They ate oysters Rockefeller style with steamed vegetables. Eve poured white wine in heavy amounts from a bottle she’d fished out of her dusty, cobweb-ridden cellar. It wasn’t a special occasion by any means. She just needed to take the edge off- as if that were the motto of her night.
Oksana only brought up her behaviour once. Plates empty, wine still pouring, she’d glanced at Eve knowingly.
“Is everything alright, Eve? You seem… flustered.” The young woman did not sound the least bit concerned.
“I’m fine,” Eve replied flatly, before clutching at her wine glass and downing it in a few gulps. Not exactly attractive but who was she trying to impress? Hugo was too easy and Oksana was too-
Eve brought her glass back to the table none too gently. She was wound tight, ready to snap. Put on edge by something so simple as a hot, sunny day and a bit of bare skin, and the woman sitting across from her only made her more aware of it.
The hours of the evening crawled by like eons, and Eve spent most of it drinking wine and drumming her nails along the armrest of one of the chairs in the living room. Finally, her clock read 10:00. Hugo would be there blessedly soon- now she just wanted it done with. Needed something to take her mind off of… whatever was making her feel so strange and contorted.
Oksana was lounging on the couch across from her, reading. Not Nietzsche, Eve noticed. She lowered her book and gazed at Eve. “Are you sure you’re feeling alright? You seem tense, Eve. You should let go once in a while.” She paused, licked her lips, and added, “I can help you.”
Eve clenched her fist, but only for something to do other than gawk at the woman on the couch. Was she hearing things or was Oksana making a lewd suggestion? Directed at her?
Eve opened her mouth to tell her “no thank you”. To tell her “it’s your fault I’m all worked up like this in the first place”. Then there came a knock at the door. Oksana frowned.
“You are expecting company?” She seemed tense, suddenly, like a deer ready to flee. Or a lion ready to pounce.
“Yes.” Eve refused to look her way, standing up on shaky legs and heading for the door. The wine was starting to hit her, and she hoped that would help. She opened the door, and there Hugo stood, leaning against the doorframe like the cocky lead actor in some high school flick.
Shame made her flush. She really was not immune to it. Hugo interpreted it as a blush of pleasure, that she was happy to see him.
This is a mess, Eve thought to herself.
She made to press her hand to Hugo’s chest, to push him out and backwards and away, far away from Oksana’s view. Too late, though. Hugo spotted her.
“Threesome?” was all he said, eyebrows arching, looking lecherous.
Eve clenched her jaw. She knew she should’ve just shoved him out and made her escape. Instead, she dared to look back into the living room.
Oksana was staring at them coolly, anger flickering behind the ice of her glare. “I don’t think so,” she bit out, before slamming her book shut and heading for the backdoor. “Enjoy your night out, Eve.”
Eve watched her go, aching without understanding why. Hugo tugged at her wrist.
“My car, then?”
Something told her that she should’ve said no, but Eve had always had a destructive streak, and why not indulge what she had already let loose. It would take her mind off Oksana; the lines of her skin, the flex of her jaw, the way she’d looked only a little bit angry as Eve had glanced back at her.
“Yeah.” Eve let him pull her out the door. “Your car.”
A few minutes later they were driving away from the homestead, and in the silence, Eve was lost in her thoughts.
She had always told herself that she’d struck up her arrangement with Hugo to keep her feeling young. She didn’t want to grow old in her house, all alone with no love and no sex. She could at least find someone for one of those things, easily enough, in the form of some Oxford-educated boy-man who was content with casual hookups.
Hugo pulled over near a copse of trees, following a set of tire tracks into the cover of the woods. Eve was glad for the cover; maybe the forest would hide her shame from the world. It crept up her body like a vine, strangling desire, nurturing impulse and poor decision making.
The road became a dead end. Eve figured someone else had used this spot for the exact same purpose they were about to.
This time, Eve did not feel like a giddy teenager when she pushed Hugo roughly into the backseat of his own car. She didn't feel young and reckless when she unbuttoned his pants. She felt old, suddenly. Worn out and tired. But she refused to turn back because she was several kinds of stubborn, and a sick kind of hunger clawed at her gut. She needed something, she just wasn’t sure in what form. Before she lowered herself over him, he opened his mouth to speak.
“Don’t talk,” she commanded.
He obliged easily, keeping his mouth busy on her neck, her collarbones, whatever skin was accessible above the neckline of her shirt. She’d only undressed as much as was necessary and even that she hardly cared about. What they were doing together had never excited her less. She vaguely wondered what had changed, and errantly thought of Oksana.
She pushed that thought out. Didn’t want it now of all places. But quick as she forced it away, it was there again. She wondered what Oksana was doing in the house all alone, with her anger. Anger that Eve had been the cause of.
She hardly noticed Hugo as he gripped her tighter, digging his nails into her bare thighs. Instead, Eve thought of Oksana. She saw her trailing long fingers along the spines of Eve’s books. Eve shivered and didn’t know why. Beneath her, Hugo seemed to take it for encouragement.
Eve ignored him. Ignored what they were doing. The way she detached her mind from her body made her thoughts run even freer. They were a river overflowing its banks, rushing for things they’d never reached at before. Unbidden, Oksana suddenly permeated her mind.
A voice in Eve’s head told her that this would make things complicated, later. Much more complicated. But another voice in her head spoke with a heady Russian accent, and it echoed through her skull-
“I can help you.”
Eve shut her eyes. It was better that way.
remember when Eve made one questionable decision with Hugo in season 2 and then I went and turned it into an integral component of this story? oop. yell at me in the comments about it. or about 3x03 cause hot DAMN
(or, if you wanna take it off ao3, my ke sideblog is @villanelle-lw or else @filthynebula but you'll have to deal with my dumb, unrelated memes, either way hmu and screech at me about whatever tickles your fancy)
Chapter 8: Frustration of Every Kind
i try to keep my notes spoiler-free so lemme just say press f to pay respects for [REDACTED]
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Hugo dropped her off at the homestead a scant 45 minutes later. It had taken a little over 10 minutes to drive out to their spot, a little over 10 to drive back, and those 25 minutes in between already felt like something experienced in a fog; hazy and incorporeal.
Hugo didn’t seem offended when Eve told him that he wouldn't be staying the night. That he wouldn’t be coming in or so much as even unbuckling his seatbelt in his black BMW. Before she could climb out of the car, though, he grabbed at her wrist.
“Who’s the girl?” he asked slyly. “Judging by her bitchy attitude earlier, she’s another one who could use my company.”
Eve tore her wrist away and reached for the latch of the door. She let out a humourless laugh. “She’d eat you for breakfast.”
“Not a bad way to go. I mean, have you seen that jawline?”
Eve hated how he hardly missed a beat. He was too snarky, too self-assured. She refused to let him remind her of Oksana. They were more different than they were similar. For starters, Oksana was certainly better looking. Second, Eve was only fucking one of them. That stung bitterly when she remembered all the ways her brain had betrayed her while she’d been-
Without another word to Hugo, Eve threw open the door and rushed out. She slammed it behind her and stalked to the house without a second look. A few moments later she heard Hugo’s tires crunching on the dirt as he drove away.
Approaching the house, Eve realized she was a torrent of emotion. Whatever she had hoped to accomplish that night was a wasted ruin; an exercise in futility. Her tension still knotted, mixed with shame and bubbling anger. Frustration of every kind. She threw open the front door and made a beeline for the kitchen, not bothering to look for Oksana. She grabbed a glass with trembling fingers and poured herself some water. As she brought it to her lips she heard a voice from behind her. The same one that had echoed within her head earlier. Eve felt her whole body tense up.
“That was quick.”
Eve turned. Oksana was sitting on the floor in the living room. She had turned to face Eve, but behind her Eve saw the glowing screen of an old CRT television, it’s boxy, deep frame nearly foreign to her. She had a faint recollection of putting it in storage, in a rarely visited part of the basement, away from where she kept the freezer and the wine.
Her awe at seeing the old TV made her forget Oksana’s comment. “Where did you find that?” she asked, even though she already knew.
“Hm. Your basement. It is very scummy down there, Eve. But perhaps you like it that way.” That struck, and Eve flinched. Oksana’s eyes were trailing over her like they could see every foul thing she was feeling inside.
Eve wondered if she should address the situation. The tension. Clearly, Oksana was upset about what she’d done with Hugo. For so long Eve had assumed that the other woman was immune to feelings and emotions; she’d hardly shown any aside from delight at Molly and amusement at Eve’s expense, after all. Anger, and, was it hurt? These were new colours on her.
Rather than address any of that, though, Eve simply moved slowly, carefully, towards the living room, trying to avoid what felt like a brewing fight. Trying to forget how that voice had echoed in her head only a short while ago.
“What are you watching?”
She had no cable, no satellite, and no streaming services. She couldn’t possibly imagine how Oksana had even gotten the damn thing set up and working, although, in reality, she knew it only needed some cords to be plugged in. Still, she would’ve had to carry it up the rickety stairs. Once again, she thought of straining muscles and sun-kissed skin. Eve forced the thought out.
As she approached, Oksana sniffed and reached for the remote next to her.
“A movie. You had a- what do you call it- a VCR? A VCR in the basement, too. And many old movies. I got bored with being angry, so I found something else to pass the time. But since you were not gone very long-” Eve watched her lips curl into a sneer “-I am only just at the beginning.”
Eve made to wander closer but Oksana scowled at her, unforgiving.
“I do not want you here. I want to be alone.”
Suddenly, Eve felt her own temper flaring. Rationally, she knew it was directed at herself. Shame and guilt made funny things out of anger. She held back from shouting at the young woman on the floor and instead bit out a clipped, “Fine. I’m going to shower.”
Oksana turned back to the TV. “Good idea,” she replied flatly.
Eve huffed and made for the bathroom they shared, slamming the door and placing her glass along the counter. She hunched over the sink and looked at herself in the mirror.
She looked a bit haggard; hair dishevelled, shirt wrinkled. She decidedly did not look thoroughly fucked, which was what she supposed she’d been going for, at some point. Now she wanted nothing more than to wash the feel of Hugo off of her. As she stripped down and turned the water on, she vowed never to reach out to him for sex again. It had been utterly unsatisfying and a complete waste of time.
She stepped into the shower and let the water run over her body. It was her favourite place in the house, that shower. It was a bit odd, with no tiles but cedarwood panelled walls instead. It made the shower less stark and gave her the feeling of being in a log cabin. Which her home sort of was, except not in the traditional sense. She didn’t live near a big forest or in the mountains, and as much as she loved the cliffs, at times she found herself missing towering trees. The brown-red timber glow of the shower always helped to put her at ease.
She took her time and let the water soothe some of her roiling emotions. When she stepped out, she dried off and wrapped the towel around herself. She’d been so rushed to get into the bathroom that she’d forgotten to bring a change of clothes. The thought of putting the others back on was several strains of unpleasant. No matter- Oksana would be preoccupied with her movie anyway.
Eve exited the bathroom. It was tucked away in a small hallway, a bit of an alcove in the otherwise open-concept home. Ahead of her on her left was the doorway to her bedroom. To the right, the wall of the hallway ended and exposed her to the living room. She would just have to dash to her room and hope that Oksana wouldn’t notice her going.
Taking a breath, Eve took two quick strides out of the hallway. She was immediately met with Oksana staring in her direction from her spot on the floor. The woman didn’t even have the decency to look away. Eve was having none of it. She refused to feel more uncomfortable that evening than she already did.
“What?” she barked harshly.
Oksana pulled her gaze from the bare skin of Eve’s chest up to her eyes. “What entices you about that man?” She had no need to specify which one.
“Nothing entices me about him,” Eve huffed, her state of undress half-forgotten. “That’s kind of the point. It’s casual, meaningless. He’s just a warm body.”
Oksana arched an eyebrow as if she were surprised to hear Eve refer to sex with such indifference. “So he is just a plaything, then?”
“If you want to call it that, sure.”
“I want to call it what it is- he is nothing more than someone you invite over on occasion for mediocre sex?”
Eve almost threw her hands in the air before she remembered that they were holding up her towel. She settled for just one hand. “Yes, fine! That’s what it is, okay? Why are we even talking about this? I wish I’d never even texted him. It was useless and-”
Eve watched Oksana’s lips pull into a smirk. She was beginning to get whiplash. First, the woman was upset with her, now she was delighting in her dissatisfaction.
“Yes. It was.”
Oksana cocked her head to the side, considering her with a look that made Eve wish she was wearing more than just a bath towel. “That is a shame.”
“It’s not like there are many options out here, alright? What am I supposed to do, call up Tom Callum? He’d probably break a hip!”
Eve could not shut her mouth for the life of her, the words just came tumbling out. This was not the way she had imagined this confrontation unfolding. She wished desperately that she had a stronger filter. She wished that the wine hadn’t lowered her inhibitions, or that the weight of Oksana’s stare wasn’t stripping away what was left of them.
“How lucky that you have- what was the eloquent way you put it- another ‘warm body’ right here in your home.”
Silence followed. The comment hung in the air. Eve almost laughed, but her straining nerves pulled the air back in. It was too similar in tone to the thoughts she’d had in the car, Hugo’s hands on her while she imagined someone else.
“Now I know you’re fucking with me,” she breathed. She felt herself getting flushed. She should’ve been getting colder the longer she stood there in nothing but the towel, yet still, heat found a way to burn through her.
It wasn’t enough that she’d had terrible sex, but now Oksana seemed determined to make her feel more the fool for it.
“Of course I am fucking with you, Eve,” Oksana purred. “I like you, but I don’t like you that much.” She was already turning back to the TV screen.
The conversation clearly done with, Eve clenched her jaw and spun away from her. She stormed into her bedroom and slammed the door. With the physical barrier between them, Eve sunk down onto her bed and took a shaky breath. She ran her hands through her damp hair. She had never felt less satisfied in her life. In fact, a small part of her felt even more frustrated than before. Angry, she suspected, with Oksana and her childish behaviour, and the way she seemed determined to get under her skin.
Still, the way she’d made the suggestion of sex without so much as batting an eyelash… that was what she’d been suggesting, wasn’t it?
Eve shook her head to herself. It didn’t matter. Oksana was a mystery that she would never solve, she knew this. Why bother puzzling out the motivations of her actions, especially the ones that were carried out with the apparent sole purpose of tying Eve into knots.
Of course, it didn’t stop her from wanting to do just that. Eve wanted to crack her open and unpack it all and figure out how everything fit together, and when she put Oksana back together she hoped she would understand the woman better.
She changed and crawled into bed. Laying there, she found that sleep was elusive. She could hear Oksana’s movie playing in the living room. She faintly registered that she’d never figured out what the other woman had been watching. She rolled to one side. Then to the other. Frustration burned and humiliation stung, and it didn’t matter that she couldn’t puzzle out the exact reasons why. She avoided any and all thoughts of the woman outside her door.
Something still nagged at her though. Eve sighed and rolled onto her back. Amidst all her other emotions, she felt the pressure of unvented sexual tension thrumming below her stomach, between her thighs. She shouldn’t, because she was still annoyed at Oksana, but her body hadn’t gotten the release that she’d needed. She squeezed her thighs together and, nope, that was worse. Or… better? Almost unconsciously her fingers trailed across her belly, down, along the waistband of her shorts. Maybe she could still salvage some sort of pleasure from her night.
Eve sucked in a shaky breath as she dipped her fingers beneath the fabric of her shorts. She hesitated, then shoved her hand beneath her underwear as well. There was nothing sexy about it but that wasn’t what she needed anyway. She just wanted the pressure vented, and she would fumble her way through it if that’s what it took.
Outside of the bedroom, the TV cut off abruptly. Eve froze. She heard Oksana get up from the floor and walk to the kitchen, but she did it while making sure to pass right by Eve’s door. Which was the most indirect way to the kitchen that she could’ve taken. Eve yanked her hand back from her between her legs and rolled furiously onto her side.
A few moments later, Oksana padded back by the door and then Eve heard the sound of her collapsing onto the couch. The movie resumed.
Eve felt like a volcano ready to burst with anger and frustration and not-quite-horniness but the desire to get off. But, unable to release any of that, she settled for grinding her teeth and shutting her eyes tight. Eventually, her frustration dissipated somewhat as the night wore on and her body forced itself calm. Slowly, the muted sound of the TV lulled her into a sleep that was shallow and troubled and, like everything else that evening, deeply unsatisfying.
eve is having a rough go of it but next chapter is like 2x as long and 3x as soft so at least there's that <3
Chapter 9: Home Improvement
this chapter is dedicated to Villanelle's wife. what's that girl up to these days.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Eve awoke the next morning to find Oksana gone.
Well, she assumed she was gone, if the folded blankets and absence of coffee were anything to go off of.
She had padded out of her bedroom, groggy and some kind of hungover- emotionally, maybe- and had expected to find Oksana in the living room. Pointedly ignoring her, sure, but still present, at least.
Instead, the house was empty, and Eve began to feel… she didn't know what, but it was uncomfortable and tight and rising in her chest.
“Oksana?” She called her name softly, hoping that the responding silence would feel soft in return rather than unpleasantly sharp. It did not.
Eve sighed and made her way to the kitchen, brewing her own coffee for the first time in weeks and mulling over her predicament.
Had the young woman really just up and left her over something so trivial as Hugo? It seemed unlikely. Oksana was bratty and infuriating at times, but she also seemed above that, somehow. Eve had seen moments of something approaching softness. Vulnerability adjacent.
Admittedly, those moments were usually followed up with some snide or witty remark at Eve’s expense, but still.
Eve shook her head to herself and poured her coffee into a mug, gripping it tightly, willing it to soothe her. She rubbed blearily at the corner of her eye before heading out to sit on the porch. She could at least enjoy that. She would figure out the rest of it later.
Opening the door and turning to the porch, she stopped when she saw her. Oksana, still there. Eve breathed a sigh of relief. She felt so foolish, suddenly. Stupid for thinking she really would have left over Hugo, of all things. It was just sex and she’d only done it because-
Before the mental image of Oksana’s flexing muscles could take shape, Eve pushed it aside. She decided she no longer wanted to think about the past 24 hours.
Oksana had been staring out at the cliffs and made no move to glance at her as Eve approached. The blonde had taken Eve’s rocking chair, her favourite chair, leaving Eve the plain, white plastic one from some home improvement store in town. Eve still refused to believe she’d done anything wrong but Oksana seemed determined to punish her. Eve sighed and sat down and remembered why the rocking chair was her favourite.
“This seat is ass.”
The other woman didn’t look at her. “I know. I have been sitting in it for weeks.” She paused, and then, “I think I earned a promotion yesterday, helping with your farm. ”
It almost made Eve smile, the way she said ‘farm’ like it was hardly a reputable thing. She pursed her lips to keep herself from it, though, waiting to gauge Oksana’s morning emotions.
“You’re right,” Eve nodded. “You’ve earned a promotion. Does this mean you’ll no longer be making coffee? It’s beneath you now?”
“Oh, I made coffee,” Oksana replied cheekily, lifting an empty mug that Eve hadn't noticed before. “Just not for you.”
Eve tried not to let it provoke her. “I see.” She brought her mug to her lips and willed herself to find pleasure in the acrid taste in her mouth. Her own coffee tasted like shit now. She’d been spoiled.
“My promotion…” Oksana was still staring at the cliffs. “Will it come with perks?”
Eve swallowed hard, and fuck, the coffee was hot. Too hot. She felt heat spread through her chest. “Perks?” she choked out. It was the night before all over again, thinly veiled innuendos under the pretense of offered assistance. Eve tried not to cough as she felt her throat burning.
Finally, Oksana turned to look at her. She looked amused at Eve’s expense, once again. How original. “You are too easy, Eve. And here I thought you were unconcerned about sex.”
Eve glared at her, innuendos forgotten. “I am- it’s not- I thought you were mad at me last night, and then you go and say shit like that. I woke up this morning and I thought you were gone.” Eve was not happy about how whiny her voice sounded as she said it.
“Oh, I was not angry with you.” Oksana waved a hand dismissively. “Your guest was very rude. ‘Threesome’, really? Does he think women will fall to their knees over that?”
Of course, Oksana chose that moment to give Eve a once-over, eyes raking over her in her sweatpants and oversized jumper. “He annoyed me with his poor manners. Plus, he is very much not my type and would never stand a chance with me”
Eve felt lost. For a split second, she thought about asking Oksana what her ‘type’ was, then, but she refrained and frowned instead. So she hadn’t been angry at Eve?
Oksana’s lips curled into a knowing smile. “Ah. You were worried I was angry with you, and that I had left you. Over the sex.”
Eve felt herself reddening. She was losing control of the conversation, what little she might have had to begin with. Time to cut her losses and move on.
“Look, let’s just- about last night. It was stupid.”
Oksana levelled a stare at her. “I think what you are going for is regret. You mean to say ‘Oksana, I am sorry, I regret having yucky sex with’-” She paused like she’d forgotten Hugo’s name. Eve refused to provide it. “-what's his face,” she finished, only a little lamely.
Eve felt defensive, suddenly, because come on. “No, I won’t be saying that.”
Oksana arched an eyebrow. “No? So are you going to apologize to me?”
“No,” Eve said again, digging her heels in. “Are you?”
“Me?” Oksana had the audacity to look genuinely surprised. “No. What for? You are the one who-”
“Yes, I know. I know.” Eve sighed. She wasn’t really sure what she had expected.
They fell into something just shy of amiable silence.
“Is that what you think you need out here?” Oksana spoke suddenly, and something about her tone suggested this wasn’t her usual banter. She was genuinely curious. “Someone to warm your bed?”
Eve tensed. She wanted to be done with this topic. To skirt it, this dangerous territory, and make for calmer waters, but she felt that maybe Oksana was on the precipice of finally opening up. Something about the woman’s posture had changed. She was inaccessible, but a little less so than before. Eve thought maybe, just maybe, there was a chance.
“I want to have sex once in a while, sue me,” she shrugged.
“Why not masturbate, Eve? Why do you need-” she frowned at the thought of Hugo, “-anyway?”
“I don’t know.” Eve ran a hand through her hair, Oksana's eyes followed the motion. “What would you want, living out here on your own?”
The younger woman was silent for a moment and turned her gaze back out to the cliffs. “Hmm. It is a good question. Obviously, I would not need your weird sex contract.” Eve opened her mouth to say it was nothing of the sort, then thought better of it. She’d rather hear what Oksana had to say than send them back down that road again.
Oksana continued on. “I think I would like someone to watch movies with.”
Eve almost laughed until she realized she was being serious.
“Movies?” she asked, incredulous.
“Movies, Eve. Normal things, yes? Living with goats and oysters and no people is not considered normal. And I would know because I have been told I am not normal. So. Having someone to watch movies with would make it all seem a bit more normal, no?”
Eve found herself smiling. She itched to ask questions. Why movies? Which movies? Who said she wasn’t normal, and why?
Instead, her mouth formed different words, her tone teasing and light in an attempt to mend fences, to set right the weird tension between them. “Say ‘normal’ one more time.”
Oksana paused for a moment, taken aback by the sarcastic jibe. Then she stuck her tongue out in a kid-like frown and reached for Eve’s mug. Eve let Oksana pull the mug towards herself even with her own hand still wrapped around the handle. Her body swayed in the direction of the rocking chair. Oksana’s fingers curled over her own, and Eve felt a warmth that had nothing to do with the coffee.
I thought of you during sex.
She clamped her mouth shut.
Oksana let the rising steam curl into her face. She inhaled deeply and immediately grimaced. “Did you make this with motor oil?”
At that, Eve broke and the tension inside her finally unravelled and she laughed, too loudly, but god, it felt good.
Eve was making lunch when the thought occurred to her. She frowned to herself, embarrassed that it had taken her so long to put it together. Between the TV last night and their conversation this morning, it should have been obvious. Eve stopped what she was doing, abandoning a half-made tuna sandwich and rushing to find Oksana.
The young woman was outside, exercising, of course. Without Molly to dote upon and no chores provided by Eve-
(Eve had decided that they were taking the day off. She just felt like it. It had nothing to do with wanting to bask in Oksana’s company now that it was clear she wasn’t leaving.)
-Oksana was taking it upon herself to run laps around the homestead again. She was in a pair of Eve’s old shorts, which hardly fit, and her well-worn athletic bra that Eve was amazed had lasted so long post-shipwreck. Her hair was in a high ponytail that swung rhythmically as she ran. She was wearing a pair of Eve’s old shoes too and the whole thing should’ve been comical, it really should have, except that Oksana was shirtless and this was nothing new, it was just that, after what had happened the night before, in the car...
Eve needed a distraction. She forced herself to wonder what kind of music Oksana liked. She tried to picture it: the young Russian, headphones in, listening to…
Oksana noticed Eve watching her from the porch.
Classical, Eve thought. I’ll bet she listens to classical music.
She didn’t know why she thought it. It was just a feeling. Something about the finesse of her movements reminded Eve of the conductor of an orchestra.
Oksana was watching Eve watch her. She looked like she might continue with her run, but instead, she changed her mind and began to angle towards the porch. Eve felt her stomach flutter. She’d been in a good mood all morning after their chat. She thought she might be high off that giddy feeling that came from righting wrongs.
Even though she hadn’t done anything wrong. She hadn’t.
Oksana stopped just short of the porch, breathing hard but still looking poised as ever. Eve had to pull her eyes away from the rise and fall of her chest. It took superhuman effort not to trail her gaze lower to the flat of her stomach.
She realized that Oksana was looking at her expectantly. Before the woman could smirk and say something suggestive, a question formed on Eve’s lips that was not what she’d meant to ask, but was still a good distraction from the way her eyes wanted to linger inappropriately on the young woman.
“What kind of music do you like?”
Oksana furrowed her brow in confusion. “Music?”
“Yeah. What kind do you like?”
She paused for a moment and then shrugged. “I like national anthems.”
Eve blinked several times, uncertain what to make of that. “Uh.”
“And also other things. Some of your American music from the ’70s. Blondie. The Clash. Very specific numbers by Elton John. How weird would it be to only like national anthems.”
Eve felt her lips pull into a smile before she shook her head and returned to the reason why she was out there to begin with. The reason she’d deserted her sandwich in such a rush, leaving it in unassembled halves on the counter.
“So, um, do you want to watch a movie later? With me?”
It came out a little more breathless than she'd intended. God, she sounded like she’d been the one running.
Oksana’s eyes widened before she could stop herself, taken aback by the proposal. For a moment, Eve was delighted that she’d elicited the reaction in the other woman, minute as it was.
Her surprise vanished quickly though. She looked at Eve with one of her stares that were all too intense. Burning. Burning through Eve like she was kindling in an inferno. Eve felt her confidence falter. Oksana looked like she might refuse, or reply in some snippy way, but then-
“Yes.” Oksana had broken into a wide grin, unrestrained excitement gleaming in her eyes.
“Okay,” Eve replied in a rush of air, relieved and exultant, grinning as well. She began to turn back inside before she remembered. “And, uh, what movie do you want to watch?”
Oksana was already turned away from her, ready to resume her run. She called over her shoulder, “I will pick later!” and then, in an act of typical Oksana boldness, the younger woman blew her a kiss. She followed it with a quick, smug smile before she continued away from the house.
Eve felt triumphant. She was beginning to figure it out, figure Oksana out. Maybe. Nevermind that she let her fingers trail along her cheek, almost as if Oksana had really kissed her there. She dropped her hand hastily when she realized what she was doing, then she turned and went inside and put it out of her mind.
By the end of the day, the previous night felt like a dream, something remembered through glass blurred with dispassion and regret. Which was good. She wasn’t complaining. But it was startling to see the change in Oksana over the short period of time. Anger followed by taunts followed by vulnerability followed by playfulness. It was enough to leave Eve more than a little dazed but happy that things were more or less back to normal. Whatever their normal was.
As if in testament to their odd-couple lifestyle, Oksana surprised Eve with dinner. Eve had just finished showering-
(Yes, for the second time in 24 hours because she really wanted a fresh start.)
-and when she stepped out of her bedroom after getting changed, she could smell something cooking.
“Oksana?” she called, disbelieving.
“Mmm,” the woman hummed in response, clearly working in the kitchen. Eve rounded the corner to see her lowering a wooden spoon from her lips, tasting the sauce of whatever dish she was preparing. It was good, judging by her satisfied hum and proud little smile.
Taking it in like a renaissance tableau, Eve glanced at the kitchen around her. It wasn’t exactly neat, but it wasn’t a complete mess either. When Eve cooked, she left splatters and goo and ingredients all over the place, dirty and dripping along the counter. When Oksana cooked, she had a dozen things on the go, and yet it all seemed to fit perfectly into place, giving the impression of organized chaos. Where Oksana was a meticulous force of nature, Eve was a child’s science fair project made flesh, messy and thrown together without expectations of greatness.
“What are you making?” she asked, trying not to give away how impressed she was.
“First, promise you will not laugh,” Oksana replied, tone serious.
Eve glanced around the kitchen and tried to figure it out for herself. She saw a cutting board, already dirtied with juice and the end bits of vegetables. Next to it was a bowl, presumably full of whatever had been chopped, but Eve couldn’t see what was inside from across the room. The sauce that Oksana had been tasting was cooking in a pan on the stovetop: Eve could smell onions and garlic and tomatoes, but it wasn’t enough to make her think of anything specific.
“No, I won’t laugh.” Eve was laughing even as she said it though, but only because the idea of Oksana cooking for her was so incredibly absurd. Yet there she was. “I promise, really. I just wasn’t expecting this.”
“You did not have a very good night, last night, and you have been letting me live here for free for over a month. This is the least I could do.” Oksana paused and shrugged once. “Well, aside from fixing your roof and carrying your oysters and picking your vegetables and-“
“Okay, okay.” Eve held a hand up, smiling. “This is very generous and I’m impressed.”
Oksana smiled to herself, self-satisfied. “I wanted to do something nice for you.” She stirred the sauce again and pulled the pan from the stovetop. Eve watched her add some herb to the mix before stirring one last time and setting it aside. “I am making you ratatouille.”
“Rata- what, seriously? Isn’t that a bit…,” Eve bit her lip, “fancy?”
Oksana laughed, loud and real, and Eve felt affection bloom in her chest. “Eve, ratatouille is not fancy, it is just preparation-intensive. You would be a riot to have in Paris.”
Eve’s heart did a stutter-step. A one-two punch in her chest. “Paris?”
Oksana didn’t seem to notice Eve’s reaction. “Mmm. Paris, yes. I lived there for a time. It is, was, my favourite city. I wish I hadn’t had to leave.”
Eve sat herself down in one of the rickety wooden chairs at the kitchen table. Oksana had lived in Paris. She’d liked it there- loved it there- judging by her wistful tone. “When did you live there?”
Eve couldn’t imagine how someone so young could afford to live in such an expensive city while buying fancy clothes and eating fancy food. Suddenly, she felt shabby. Compared to Oksana’s former life, Eve’s must seem desolate.
Oksana waved her wooden spoon absently. “Before Rotterdam. Rotterdam was short. It was… business trip. I was supposed to go back to Paris afterwards,” she sighed, missing her home. Eve couldn’t even imagine what her home might look like. Then, just as suddenly, Oksana shrugged, melancholia gone. “But now I am here, with you.”
Eve watched Oksana pull the bowl of chopped vegetables closer to her as she brought the saucepan to the table. As she started working, Eve saw that the vegetables weren’t chopped but sliced, thinly and into rounds, and Oksana was meticulously placing them in the pan.
“I chose this dish because you have so many vegetables,” she explained. “Eggplant, zucchini, squash, tomatoes. Your garden is very prolific.”
“It took a lot of practice.”
Eve remembered her first few years at the homestead, failed plots in the garden where nothing grew and she’d had to drive into town nearly every weekend to restock because she hadn’t figured out the whole self-sufficient living thing yet. She’d come so far since then.
Oksana merely hummed in response as she continued her task. They let the air settle in silence, and Eve watched Oksana’s hands at work.
Despite the fact that she knew Oksana had fixed shingles and trimmed hooves, hauled oysters and picked vegetables, Eve had the belief that her hands would be too soft for those things. Eve’s own hands were calloused from years of work and less supple than they’d once been. She wondered if her own hands felt rough to the touch, should someone else find themselves beneath them.
Her body acted of its own volition as she reached a hand across the table towards Oksana. It was a slow-moving thing, and Eve watched, a captive audience to her own movement.
Oksana paused. She didn’t look up from the pan in front of her, didn’t move from her position, hovering over and across the table from Eve. But she didn’t pull away either, her hands stilling over the pan.
Eve let her fingers brush against Oksana’s skin, tracing over the knuckles of her thumb. She slid her touch along the back of Oksana’s hand and yes, she had been right. Her skin was far too soft. It was unfair, it was cruel,
It was indulgent, and Eve could suddenly appreciate what hedonists were all about.
She let her fingers trail until she had wrapped them around the slim of Oksana’s wrist and she really had no excuse anymore to be doing what she was doing. The room was too silent. Oksana was staring at the place where Eve was touching her.
Eve spoke with as much serenity as she could muster, ignoring the heat flaring inside of her, threatening to burn her up. “Thank you for making dinner.”
Oksana’s eyes traced a slow path from Eve’s hand at her wrist, along her arm, and finally to her eyes. Eve watched her swallow, slow and deliberate. “Just to be clear, this is not going to become a regular thing. I am an amazing cook, but I am not your hired help.”
And as quick as it had fallen, the spell was lifted. Eve was released from enchantment and released Oksana in turn. She chuckled as she pulled her hand back across the table and replied, “Of course it won’t. I can only ask so much of my unpaid labourer”.
Unsurprisingly, when it came time to eat, the food was incredible. Eve did her best to hold back what threatened to be a not-so-PG moan at the taste of it. Living alone, mostly off of what she could make herself, Eve had grown to love vegetarian meals, even though she still liked meat when she had it. She’d tried countless things over the years, but this single meal by Oksana might have been the best thing she’d ever had.
Figures. Eve wanted to be just a little bit annoyed because come on. Paris and fancy clothes and bratty attitude; who was this woman? How had she become so… well off? But she couldn’t find it in herself to care right at that moment. The food was delicious and Oksana was looking at her expectantly as if she hadn’t already heard Eve sighing and humming in obvious pleasure at the dish.
Still, Eve supposed she should tell her with words. “This is incredible.”
Oksana grinned before digging into her own food, shovelling it into her mouth with no regard for the delicacy of it, and Eve bit back a laugh. Maybe she wasn’t quite as elegant as Eve was giving her credit for.
Almost as if she could hear her thoughts, Oksana glanced back in her direction and let her gaze settle on Eve. Eve fought hard not to squirm under the weight of her attention.
The rest of their meal passed in silence. Eve savoured every bite, while Oksana ate fast and took two more helpings before Eve had finished her first. When they were done, Oksana sat back in her chair and patted her stomach. “Not bad, no?”
Eve shook her head, laughing. “You already know I liked it. You’re just fishing now.”
Oksana cocked her head. “Fishing?”
“You know, like fishing for compliments. You already know it was a perfect meal, but you want to hear me say it again, which, I think I just did.”
“Hmm, 'fishing’ for compliments...," she drawled, testing the phrase on her tongue. "Speaking of, why do you not just fish for food?”
Eve shrugged. “I was never really into it.”
Oksana raised an eyebrow in skepticism. “You were into oyster farming while living in London?”
“Shut up. No, I wasn’t into oysters before, either. I still go fishing sometimes, but the oysters were just more appealing to me.”
The blonde let her head fall back against the wood of the chair and closed her eyes. “Why not chickens? It would be very economical for you to have chickens.”
Eve winced before she could help it and was glad Oksana couldn’t see the reaction. “My ex-husband and I used to have a chicken.”
Oksana cracked one eye open. “And that was enough to dissuade you? That makes no sense, Eve.”
Eve huffed. “I just didn’t want chickens after that. It’s just- it’s a thing, okay? If you ever get married and then divorced maybe you’ll sympathize better.”
The words made a sudden thought hit Eve’s brain like a bombshell. She realized that she had no idea if Oksana was in a relationship, some romantic entanglement put indefinitely on hold while she was living with Eve. She assumed not, because she would’ve mentioned something, right?
Like she mentioned family, or friends, or work, or Paris?
Eve suddenly had the mental image of some poor, French man, contacting the authorities, looking for his beautiful, if brusque, Russian girlfriend who had been missing for over a month after a routine business trip to Rotterdam. Something about the picture didn’t sit right but Eve still couldn’t get it out of her head. It twisted something inside her, knowing that there might be someone who cared about Oksana and was looking for her. It made Eve feel guilty because here she was, soaking up the woman’s company without a second thought for whoever that person may be.
Even you’d be better than this, Bill. You’d probably play it cool and let her stay for a week or two but then you’d make sure she got back home.
Eve shook her head to herself. Oksana had noticed her unease and was staring at her. “What is the matter, Eve? You look a bit nauseous. I know it is not the food, but perhaps you are thinking about your rendezvous last night.” She snickered to herself but Eve was hardly listening.
“Oksana, you’re not married are you?”
“What? Ha!” She barked a laugh, loud and harsh. “No. No, I am not married, Eve. Why?”
“Is there anyone looking for you?”
It was the most personal question she’d asked in a long time, but Eve felt like it was the most important one there had ever been. Why had she never thought to ask it before?
Oksana looked surprised, but quickly she seemed to realize that the question was important to Eve. “No. No, there is no one looking for me, Eve. No one important at least. So do not worry that you have stolen me away from anyone.” She looked confused for a moment. “Are you thinking of getting rid of me so soon, right after I made you an incredible dinner?”
“No!” Eve replied, too quickly and too forcefully. Oksana smirked. “I just- I just wanted to make sure.”
“You have nothing to worry about, Eve. There is no one else competing for my attention.” Oksana rose and took her plate to the sink. “Well, except maybe for Molly,” she murmured, intentionally loud enough for Eve to hear.
Eve rolled her eyes and let the anxiety unknot in her chest. No one was looking for her, and maybe that should’ve made Eve feel a bit sad. Or suspicious even. But instead, she felt lucky and happy and, most of all, well-fed.
“So-” she joined Oksana at the sink and added her own plate to the pile of dishes. “Are you going to pick out a movie?”
Oksana hummed in response, focused on the dishes in the sink.
“Go, then,” Eve nodded her head towards the living room. “You made dinner, I’ll clean up.”
Oksana shot her one of her rare, genuine smiles in response. No teasing or smirking or playful banter. Just a fond curl of her lips as she pulled her hands out of soapy water. “You are an excellent partner, Eve. Your ex-husband must feel like a fool these days, without you around.” And then she turned and made for the living room without another word, without looking back.
It might’ve been- no, it definitely was- the nicest thing that Oksana had ever said to her, if a bit abrupt. Although, overall, the bar was not set exceptionally high since the other woman mostly just teased her. But still. Eve stood in disbelief for a few moments before she felt her mouth pull into a self-satisfied grin.
You hear that, Niko? I’m a fucking catch.
She sunk her hands into the water and replayed Oksana’s words over in her mind, letting her ego swell for the first time in a long, long time.
super shameless plug that its my birthday tomorrow! as a gift to myself (because im super jazzed about it) and to y'all (because you are all so nice to me), im gonna post the first chapter of my new villaneve fic later this week, heres hopin y’all like it 🤞 BUT THIS FIC IS STILL HAPPENING pls don’t think we’re done here
Chapter 10: Breakneck
hey yall i know i already posted a one shot today but i made a promise to post this chapter today too and how was i supposed to know i wouldn't sleep at all last night and would write 3500 words of villaneve hurt/comfort instead?? anyway, here's wonderwall.
major spoilers for thelma&louise i guess? i dunno the movie is like 30 yrs old pls dont at me
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
When Eve padded into the living room a short while later, kitchen cleaned and hands wrinkled from dish-washing, she found Oksana seated on the floor, VHS boxes scattered around her. She was wearing one of Eve’s baggy sweaters and a clean pair of athletic shorts, long legs pale in the dim light of the room. Her hair fell loosely around her face as she frowned at the movies scattered around her, as if the fate of the world might rest upon the decision of which one they watched.
Eve didn’t bother fighting the smile that tugged at her lips. “Did you pick one?”
As she approached, Oksana craned her head to look up at her and Eve was once again reminded how beautiful she was. It was something about the way her eyes caught the fading daylight, holding excitement and an eagerness that set Eve’s heart racing. “I have put options out for you,” she said, gesturing at a pile of tapes in front of her.
Eve crouched down and scanned the titles.
“The Silence of the Lambs… Scarface…Psycho?”
Oksana shrugged. “I like thrills.”
“Okay, but there’s also Titanic.”
The blonde looked like she wanted to shrug again and settled for a halfhearted pout instead. “Maybe I am also a romantic.”
Eve snorted. “Okay, and…. Thelma and Louise. Wow. You didn’t pick many uplifting movies, did you?”
Oksana frowned at her. This time it was one of her full-blown pouts, but god, Eve was starting to find them endearing. “These are your movies I have to choose from. Besides, I have never seen many of these. They are old-timey ‘classics’, are they not?”
“Yeah, most of these probably came out before you were even born.” She ignored Oksana sticking her tongue out at her. “So, have you decided which one you want to watch?”
“I want you to pick from these,” Oksana replied, beaming at her. Eve thought she might melt.
But that was dangerous territory. It was one thing to recognize how attractive the woman was, it was another thing altogether to find her so charming. Eve focused on the pile of movies instead. “Psycho.”
Oksana arched an eyebrow. “Slasher flick? Eve, I am surprised.”
“For all you know, I could be a huge fan of axe murderers,” Eve deadpanned.
“I believe you are thinking of The Shining.”
“You just said you haven’t seen these, how would you know?”
Oksana laughed lightly. “I may not have seen them but I have been living in modern society, Eve. I have obviously heard of these films before.”
“Right, right.” Eve glanced around the room. The couch had the best viewing spot, but it was also Oksana’s makeshift bed, and Eve didn’t want to impose. “So, how are we going to set this up?”
The other woman looked at her like she was being ridiculous. “On the couch, obviously. Come on.”
She turned the TV on, put the tape into the antiquated VCR, and pressed play. Then she climbed onto the couch, tucked her long legs underneath herself and patted the spot next to her. Eve let herself fall onto the cushions next to the young woman and propped her feet up on the small coffee table nearby. She tried not to think about the fact that this would be the longest that they had sat next to each other, and it was going to be in complete silence, in the growing dark of the coming night.
Eve put all of her focus onto the screen in front of her.
Except, it was not completely silent. It turned out that Oksana was a very talkative movie-watcher. She hummed and hawed and tsked as Marion Crane’s series of unfortunate events unfolded on screen. She was never frightened, never even tense. The horror of it just didn’t seem to touch her, even though she’d never seen the movie before.
Eve, on the other hand, had seen the movie plenty of times, but not for several years. It had been one of her old favourites, although Niko had never enjoyed watching it with her.
“Why would I want to watch a movie about a person doing horrible things to other people when I hear enough about that on the news every day?”
Eve pushed the thought of him away.
Watching the movie with Oksana was fun. Genuine fun. She commented on the believability of the blood and gore and murder like she was some kind of expert. She scoffed good-naturedly at the infamous shower scene and let out an animated gasp when the truth of Mrs. Bates' condition was revealed. Eve found her as entertaining as the film itself, although she had to frequently remind herself not to stare. She thought Oksana might’ve caught her once or twice.
It grew dark outside as they watched and when the credits rolled at the end, the sun had set. Oksana was quiet and Eve found herself stifling a yawn with her hands. When it passed she turned to the blonde and asked, “So, what did you think?”
Oksana gave her one of her teasing smiles. “I think… meh.”
She shrugged. “It is good, but it is not very realistic.”
Eve laughed at that. “It’s not supposed to be realistic. It’s supposed to be entertaining.”
Oksana let her head fall back against the couch before turning to look more directly at Eve. “Thank you for the movie. It is nice, no, to do normal things?”
“It was nice, thank you,” Eve replied, inclining her head at the other woman before stifling another yawn. “I should head to bed, I think. It’s getting late.”
“Pssh. You are like a grandma. But go. I will probably read for a bit.”
“Hm, alright. Do you need the bathroom before I go?”
Oksana didn’t reply but instead pushed herself off the couch and made her way down the hallway.
“I guess that’s a ‘yes’!” Eve called after her.
Idly, she let her gaze wander around the room while she waited. Then, feeling overwhelmingly tired all of a sudden, she decided to lay down on the couch.
Oksana’s scent washed over her, blackberries and something heady that made Eve want to inhale deeper and hold it in her lungs until it percolated through to her veins. But she also noticed that the couch was kind of really uncomfortable. It was an old and lumpy thing that she'd purchased secondhand. And Oksana had been sleeping on it without complaint for over a month.
Eve felt a little bit guilty. She said as much when the other woman padded back into the room.
“God, you’ve been sleeping out here for weeks and I never asked if it was comfortable. It’s not, I just checked. I’m sorry. The floor might even be better.”
“It is no problem, Eve. You have nothing else to offer me.”
Was there an unspoken question at the end of that statement? Or was Eve projecting her own train of thought?
Eve had a bed. Is that what Oksana wanted?
She tripped over her words. “I, uh… why don’t you take my bed? For a night at least, to take a break from this-” she waved at the couch.
Oksana cocked her head. “Where will you sleep?”
“On, uh, on the couch.”
Oksana appeared to mull it over, chewing deliberately on her lip in a way that had Eve guessing she was just trying to get a rise out of her. Still, Eve didn’t speak up. She was tense, suddenly, and she needed to see what Oksana said next before she could trust herself to move. The ball was in the young woman’s court.
“Okay.” Oksana smiled, decision made. “Shall I head there now?”
“Oh, I’ll- uh, I’ll just grab some things.”
Eve got up from the couch, took a wide berth around the other woman, and entered her room. She hoped the blush creeping across her cheeks wasn’t too obvious. She wasn’t even sure why she was blushing. She was just letting her guest borrow her bed for one night. Frankly, it was rather embarrassing that it had taken her so long to offer. Where were her manners?
She shut the door behind her and changed into her sleep clothes; an old t-shirt and a pair of cotton shorts. She threw a sweater on and pulled her hair into a bun. She glanced in her mirror. She looked effortlessly relaxed and comfortable, but inside she was all frayed nerves and jitters. She didn’t dwell on the why of it, she just turned and did her best to walk confidently out of her bedroom.
“Alright, it’s all yours,” she said cheerily. Oksana smirked as if she could see through the facade.
“You are too generous, Eve.” She moved too quickly for Eve to deflect it, stepping into her space while she was still in the narrow doorway. “Thank you,” she purred, and raised a hand to touch Eve’s cheek, stroking her fingers lightly along her jaw. “The movie was fun, too.”
Then, as quick as she’d moved in, she put space between them again and turned back towards the living room, going to grab her book from the coffee table near the couch.
Eve stood paralyzed, the ghost of Oksana’s touch still tracing fairy paths along the swell of her cheeks. She was still standing there when Oksana returned.
“Have you changed your mind already, Eve? I promise it is not so bad.”
Eve came back to earth. “Right. Sorry. Just tired. Let me know if you, uh, need anything, but otherwise, I’ll just-” she made a show of pushing herself out of Oksana’s way and heading towards the bathroom.
“Goodnight, Eve,” Oksana cooed from the bedroom, smirking over her shoulder before heading in and shutting the door softly.
Eve exhaled a breath, trying to calm her racing heart as she ducked into the bathroom and softly clicked the door shut.
Once she was ready for bed, she wandered back out to the living room and, eyeing the couch, decided to head to the kitchen for a glass of water. Then she stood staring out the window for a bit, which was pointless considering it was pitch black outside. She was avoiding sleeping, for what were probably childish reasons, but she couldn’t fight her fatigue forever.
Finally, Eve made her way to the living room. She sat down on the couch, rigid and proper, and stared at the closed door of her bedroom. Light crept through the crack underneath, and every so often Eve thought she could hear the rustle of a book, a page turned by Oksana’s deft touch. A softness that reminded Eve of the woman’s fingers tracing along her cheek.
Eve laid herself down. Still stiff as a board but at least she was horizontal. Progress was progress. With one hand she pulled the folded blanket off the back of the couch, letting it tumble down onto her chest with a soft thump. The smell of Oksana permeated the air around her, and Eve sighed in resignation.
She could not escape the odd comfort of it, just as she couldn’t ignore that this was where the other woman slept every night. It excited her a little bit. She wasn’t quite sure why. Maybe it was some strange mutation of her curious nature; there she was, wanting to know everything about Oksana, and now she was laying in the space where she slept, where she was most vulnerable. It was the intimacy of it that delighted her.
Eve turned the day over in her mind. She’d woken up thinking that Oksana had left her and now she was going to sleep in the other woman's sort-of bed, after curling up on the couch with her to watch a movie. She snorted quietly to herself. They certainly liked to keep things interesting, at least.
Despite her initial nervousness at taking the couch and the flutter in her stomach whenever she thought of it as Oksana’s bed , it didn’t take long for Eve to drift off to sleep. In the morning, when she felt refreshed and well-rested, she would chalk it up to the terrible sleep from the night before, and the good meal, and the exciting movie; all things coming together to make her tired enough to pass right out on the couch. It would be a result of those things entirely, and nothing to do with gentle hands or the smell of blackberries.
It became something of a routine, their movie nights. It was disgustingly domestic but Eve found herself powerless to stop it. Oksana nearly became a different person when they settled on the couch every other evening and put a movie on. She watched the screen with rapt attention, commenting all the while, and it was those unfiltered moments that Eve cherished most.
Oksana was uncensored when watching, and even if her observations were not personal details about herself that Eve could pick apart, Eve found herself wanting to know more even about the trivial things. What did Oksana think about the movie? Did she like it? Why, or why not? What was her favourite part? Those things were idle and incidental, but Eve found herself trying to tease whatever meaning out of them that she could.
In the first week after Psycho, they’d also watched The Silence of the Lambs and, oddly enough, The Goonies. Oksana found the former to be thrilling, the latter, unfamiliar. Her bemused expression for most of the movie led Eve to believe that she had never had many friends growing up. Had never had a childhood gang of buddies to do kid shit with. She’d said as much, and Oksana had shrugged in response. “Kids are annoying.”
Aside from the commentary, those evenings passed strangely for Eve. She felt charged with a bizarre energy which only came when the lights were turned off and Oksana occupied the seat beside her. When they’d finished The Goonies, Eve had been taken aback at just how close to the other woman she’d become. She chalked it up to the diversion of the movies. By taking their attention off of each other, it had made them less aware of personal boundaries. They were still somewhat guarded with each other during the days, but in the darkness of Eve’s living room, the stone walls between them turned to silk veils. Eve found herself itching to pull them aside with abandon.
That night, they sat with Thelma and Louise playing on the old TV. The movie was nearly halfway through and Eve couldn’t figure out if Oksana was enjoying it or not. She was both annoyed and entranced, it seemed. She complained about the heroines’ mistakes, numerous and foolish, and Eve felt a gentle rebuttal tumble from her lips.
“It’s not like they’re professionals, you know. They’re just two women trying their best with the shitty hand they were dealt.”
Oksana turned to look at her, and Eve felt flushed under her gaze. It was rare that Oksana would tear her eyes away from the screen when they watched.
“They are too emotional. Careless, unhinged. They create more problems for themselves than they solve. Like this-” she gestured at the screen just as Thelma made puppy dog eyes and whined at Louise, begging to give the grifter, JD, a ride. “-This is silly. Louise should know better. She killed a man and they are on the run but now is a good time to pick up a hitchhiker?”
Eve laughed. “But the hitchhiker is Brad Pitt. Who could say no to that?” she teased.
Oksana rolled her eyes, and Eve carried on. “Thelma just wants to escape. She wants something exciting and different and dangerous, but not the type of danger that they’re already in. That's a bad kind of danger. She can be a bit reckless now because the cat’s out of the bag, they’re in trouble anyway, but at the same time she doesn’t want to admit it. So she tries to take her mind off of it with that-” Eve pointed at the image of a young Brad Pitt, smiling confidently under the brim of his cowboy hat from the backseat of the car.
Oksana shook her head, eyes returning to the screen in front of them. “That I understand. That is not what annoys me.” She frowned, looking vexed. “They are impulsive. I like it. But they have no control. If they want to act on impulse, they should at least be in control.”
“That’s kind of the point, though. They get to lose control and are being set free.”
Oksana laughed at that, still focused on the screen. “You admire it.”
Eve frowned. It sounded like she was being made fun of. She felt defensive, suddenly. “So what if I do?”
“It is just entertaining, Eve, that is all. You would make a very good Thelma. Running, chasing, losing control.” Her eyes slid back to Eve. “Rescuing vagrants.”
Eve felt herself shiver. Onscreen, JD and Thelma were getting to know each other very intimately.
Not knowing how to respond, Eve let their conversation fade out, and watched another disaster unfold for the two main characters. All the while, she was trying to think of something clever to say. Instead, when she spoke her voice left her in a whisper. “Is that what you are, a vagrant?”
Oksana turned from the screen and looked at her again. Her eyes traced Eve’s face, searching, settling on her lips for the briefest possible moment. “No. I am something much more exciting than that.”
“Really?” Eve watched as Oksana’s eyes followed the curve of her mouth as she spoke. “And more tempting than Brad Pitt?”
She wasn’t sure why she’d said it. It was teasing, she supposed. Just a gentle tease between… what were they, roommates? Eve held her breath waiting for Oksana to reply. The other woman smiled devilishly.
“Irresistible,” she purred, and Eve’s eyes locked onto the dart of her tongue over the last syllable of the word, the way it stuck between her teeth, rosey and foreign.
Eve felt charged with electricity. The moment had come out of nowhere and suddenly they were so close and Oksana’s eyes were still fixed intently on her lips and Eve thought maybe she was forgetting to breathe. It reminded her of being a teenager, suddenly. It was exhilaration and nervousness tangled into one big knot in her throat.
She tried to chuckle, but it was more of a swift release of the air held in her lungs for too long. She turned away and fixed her eyes on the screen again. Thelma was robbing the store, calling out for Louise to drive. The excitement pulled Oksana’s eyes away from Eve, and the moment passed.
The movie continued, and Oksana slowly began making her comments again. As Thelma and Louise went further, they smartened up, according to the blonde, and she began to watch the movie with an excited look in her eyes, revelling in the chaos of two women on the run.
For herself, Eve found it hard to concentrate. She was thinking of Oksana’s eyes and her voice and the hidden shape of her tongue.
Still, she couldn’t ignore the movie for long, and soon enough she was feeling emotional as the two women were being chased down, the end approaching. Oksana noticed Eve’s tension and turned to look at her for a moment. She said nothing, turning back to the TV right away, but a few seconds later Eve felt the tentative pressure of Oksana’s pinky finger on the back of her hand. Eve hadn’t realized she’d been clenching a fist. She relaxed her grip and flipped her hand over and let Oksana’s fingers trace gentle paths along the creases of her palm.
She was sure the other woman meant it to be soothing, and it was, after a fashion. It also forced Eve’s attention away from the movie and onto the soft touch of Oksana’s fingertips. The electricity returned, and she found it hard not to be consumed by it.
Oksana’s comments slowed to a halt as the ending drew nearer. The room was quiet except for the final moments of the movie.
“Let’s not get caught.”
Eve watched with half a mind, held in place by Oksana’s touch and the growing heat in her chest.
“Let’s keep going.”
She let her fingers curl inward, pressing Oksana’s to stillness against the curve of her palm. Onscreen, the Thunderbird accelerated. Eve was vaguely aware that she was holding her breath. Oksana’s fingers twitched in her hand as the movie’s iconic ending played out before them. Eve wondered what it might feel like to drive off a cliff.
She realized then that she might find out. It had been a slow-moving thing over the past month, something she’d hardly noticed, but now, with the way her stomach tied into knots as Oksana’s fingers floated across her skin, she thought she might be approaching a cliff at a breakneck pace. The credits began rolling and Oksana didn’t move her hand. Eve thought that the tension between them had something to do with the cliff, even if she wasn't sure what it meant, but she was realizing that she didn't know how to stop herself from launching over the edge.
The real problem, she decided, was not knowing what awaited her at the bottom.
if none of the movie references made any sense I apologize.
did they watch thelma & louise because eve lives near cliffs? nope, but it sure worked out well considering I didn’t plan for it.
There was a heaviness to the air that settled around them over the next few days. Swollen with unspoken words and lingering gazes, it seemed to Eve as if they were two bodies in orbit. Forced to revolve and never connect. It irritated her. She found that she wanted to connect. Some days she wanted to collide into Oksana with all the force of a spinning planet. She felt it in her bones; a desire that she wasn’t sure how to understand, there nonetheless. She wanted to be in the same room, the same space, and occupy her existence.
She wanted and wanted. It was some kind of craving and Eve was insatiable.
They spent most of the days together, completing tasks and doing chores and never talking about the moments they’d shared on the couch. Of course, not talking didn’t mean that they didn’t exist, and Eve found herself wondering if Oksana felt the same pulling force, bringing them closer without tying them together. The other woman certainly showed some signs of it. She stood closer to Eve, or sat nearer on the couch, and smiled more. Eve felt the woman’s eyes on her more often, and Oksana went so far as to touch her during moments when they previously wouldn’t have even looked at each other. Passing each other in the hallway between Eve’s room and the bathroom, working side by side in the yard, cleaning up after meals. Oksana took these opportunities to place a hand on Eve’s back or else trail her fingers along her wrist. Always in passing, and always with a quiet reverence.
Eve would have said it was flirting. She would have, except that she was refusing any sort of train of thought that led in that direction. She was biased, she told herself, because she’d already pictured Oksana once during sex and that meant she was seeing things when nothing was actually there.
That had to be it. The other possibility, that Oksana was actually flirting with her, was absurd. Eve was quite a bit older than her, for starters, and Oksana seemed like the type of woman to be with someone as equally poised and elegant and, well, hot. Eve didn’t think she’d been hot in several years, if only because working on a farm in voluntary isolation wasn’t exactly the right environment for working on her sex appeal. So no, she didn’t think that Oksana was actually flirting with her.
The days passed by in much the same way for another week, although movie nights were now the stage for a battle that raged within Eve’s ribs, heart pounding and stomach churning. She found herself wondering if she was sitting too close, or too far, and would the way she tilted her head draw Oksana’s attention, and would Oksana’s hand find hers when the Titanic sank.
One morning before she got out of bed, Eve wondered if Oksana was ever going to leave the homestead. It seemed impossible that she would want to stay forever. She had a whole entire life that was on hold, somewhere. But Oksana never mentioned leaving, and so Eve didn’t either.
She did, though, ask about Molly.
“Eve, it has been three weeks. Can’t we bring her back yet?”
They were eating their lunch on the porch, salad with blueberries and goat cheese, and enjoying the midday sun. It had rained the day and night before and the grass was growing greener because of it. Eve ran her eyes across the horizon, appreciating the way the green of the land rolled ahead of her to the cliffs before it stopped abruptly and became the blues of the sea and sky. She sighed contentedly and then registered that Oksana was looking at her expectantly.
“What? Oh, Molly. Tom will call me when she’s ready. He’ll be waiting to see if she’s pregnant, but once he’s sure then I can go back and pick her up and you can have your best friend back,” Eve teased.
Oksana stuck her tongue out at her. Eve willed herself not to stare and changed the topic. “So I was thinking this afternoon we should try to mount that other solar panel on the roof. Since you’ve been here we’re using a lot more electricity and the extra panel would ensure that I’m not going to run out of hot water in the shower. Again.”
Oksana snickered. She had thoroughly enjoyed the way Eve had shrieked when her shower had abruptly turned cold the day before. “Okay, if you insist. I will take a look after lunch.”
“Don’t go up there and try to do it yourself,” Eve told her, shaking her head. “You’re strong, but I don’t want you to go and try lifting that panel up alone. You could break your neck if you fell.”
“It is touching that you are so concerned about my wellbeing, Eve.”
“Hm. I just don’t want to have to clean up the mess of your dead body.”
Oksana grinned. She seemed to find gallows humour entertaining. “Okay, boss.”
Eve rolled her eyes but otherwise didn’t reply. They finished their food in amiable silence and went back inside. Eve offered to tidy up the kitchen while Oksana announced that she would head outside and take a look at the roof to see where the best spot would be for the new solar panel.
Eve was just finishing up the dishes when her cell phone rang. It caught her off guard. She didn’t get many calls, after all, but a glance at the fading, tiny, old screen told her that it was Tom Callum.
“Eve... howdy. I, uh, well I was just calling to check in…”
Tom didn’t sound like his usual boisterous self and Eve felt a nervous flutter in her gut.
“Tom, is everything alright? You sound a bit out of sorts… Is… is it Molly?”
“Oh, no no! No, Eve, Molly is great. In fact, I think she might be ready for you to pick up soon, if you catch my meaning. No, that’s not, um, why I was calling, actually. You see, it’s about-”
“Oh thank fuck,” Eve breathed out, relief heavy on her tongue. “I was worried for a second there, Tom. You can’t do that to me,” she teased.
“Ah, my apologies. No. Uh, Eve, I’m calling about Bil-”
Eve didn’t register the rest of Tom’s sentence. She heard a curse come from outside, a loud but slightly muffled ‘fuck’, and then a crash, and then a thud. She wasn’t sure about the rest of it, but she knew Oksana’s voice well enough by then to recognize it from inside the house.
“Shit, Tom, I’m sorry, I’ve got to go. Just, uh, give me a call tomorrow, okay? We’ll figure it out, whatever it is. Sorry!” And she hung up in spite of Tom’s sputtering protests.
Eve dropped her phone on the counter and dashed for the back door. She threw it open and ran outside in a panic. Glancing around hurriedly, she saw Oksana laying in an uncharacteristically feeble heap near the back wall of the house. Clearly, she’d fallen from the roof. A glance at the lopsided ladder and cracked solar panel next to her told Eve that she’d tried to mount it herself, just like Eve had warned her not to.
“Jesus fuck, Oksana, what were you thinking?!” Eve ran over to her and was relieved to see the other woman awake and relatively unscathed.
“I wanted to get it done,” she muttered. She looked dazed and a bit scuffed up from the fall, but otherwise unharmed, until Eve glanced at her hand.
“What the fuck did you do?”
There was a long gash across the back of her hand, several inches long and, mercifully, not so deep as to require stitches. Still, it bled badly.
Like a stuck pig.
Eve frowned and shook the thought from her head. Now was not the time to compare Oksana’s wound to the one she’d given Miles Whittaker in the London courtroom, a lifetime ago.
“Come on, you fucking moron.” Eve helped Oksana to her feet, but the younger woman stumbled into Eve dazedly. “God, I hope you don’t have a concussion.”
“Fuck me, let’s get you inside.”
Eve helped Oksana through the door, for once paying no attention to the curves of the younger woman’s body. One hand supporting Oksana’s waist, Eve clenched her other hand tight across the woman’s bloody wound to try to keep it from dripping onto the hardwood.
“You couldn’t just listen, could you? You couldn’t wait just fifteen fucking minutes for me to clean up and come outside and help you? No, you had to do it yourself ‘cause you’re so independent and- and- stubborn.”
“I am not concussed, Eve, really. I’m fine.” She stumbled as she said it, doing nothing for Eve’s nerves.
“Just… shut up, for a second, okay?”
“You seem mad at me,” Oksana huffed.
“No, just- I’m worried about you, you idiot. I care about you, so I don’t like it when you go and be fucking stupid. Now-” Eve bulldozed over Oksana, who had opened her mouth in preparation to speak. “-listen to me, and shut up. I’m gonna get you cleaned up. You’ve bled all over your arm, your shirt, which is actually one of my shirts, and my floor.”
Eve led them into the house and sat Oksana down at the kitchen table. She grabbed a nearby dish towel and pressed it to Oksana’s hand. “Hold this here.”
“I know how to treat a wound,” Oksana pouted.
“But not, apparently, how to listen when I tell you not to do something stupid.”
Oksana had no response to that so she just nodded her head in the direction of the sink. “Maybe you could grab something to wash my arm with?”
Eve frowned at her. She was annoyed with her for being reckless on the roof, and for bossing her around when Eve was the one doing the tending and the admonishing. “I should just let you do it yourself. Serves you right for-”
Oksana let out a heavy sigh. “I get it, Eve. For being stupid. I will take care of it myself, okay? So you can go… do… whatever.” She pushed herself back from the table and made for the sink.
Eve grit her teeth and debated forcing the other woman back down into the chair. She remembered, though, all those push-ups that Oksana had done not even a week after her shipwreck. Honestly, Eve wasn’t sure she was strong enough to overpower the other woman in a contest of strength, even with the injured hand, and she was too worked up to just sit and watch her patch herself up. She threw her arms up in a huff.
“Fine. If you need me, I’ll be in my room.” And she turned and stalked away.
Eve slammed the door of her bedroom harder than she probably needed to. It wasn’t like she was boiling with rage, per se, she was just coiled and tense. The adrenaline from rushing outside still hadn’t worn off, and the jumble of fear, worry, frustration, and concern was a tumbling mess in her head that made it hard to sort out her feelings. She just knew that underneath it all was a genuine care for the woman who was occupying her kitchen, washing blood off her hands like it was routine.
It shouldn’t have surprised her, the realization that she cared about Oksana. They’d been cohabitating for a month and a half, and with a lack of other regular social interactions (no, Hugo did not count, and Elena’s visits were too infrequent) it was all too easy for Eve to grow attached to the woman.
She sighed and collapsed back onto the bed, falling backwards into her comforter and trying to feel, well, comforted. But the growing reality of the situation was not something Eve could escape from that easily-
Oksana would have to leave eventually. And Eve would be very, very upset when she did.
She tried to puzzle out what that meant, exactly. Why would she be upset? Obviously, because Oksana was handy to have around and the extra help had been so nice over the past six weeks. And she wasn’t the worst company possible.
No, if Eve was being honest with herself, Oksana’s company, while abrasive at the start and still, for the most part, shrouded in mystery, had become a more than welcome addition to her hermit’s life. Living alone for a few years had been nice, had been just what she’d needed after the implosion of her life in London, but now… now she had gone and developed feelings for the first person to spend more than eight hours with her since then.
She hadn’t meant those kinds of feelings. Obviously. Eve scrunched her eyes shut and felt her eyebrows trying to meet above her nose. She vaguely wondered if maybe she was experiencing some kind of psychological phenomenon common to hermits; something where, after living in isolation for several years, she would fall for the first person to walk through her door.
Not fall for, that was- she frowned harder. It had been too long since she’d had meaningful connections with people. Now she wasn’t even sure how to react to one. She spent a few more minutes laying on her back and staring at her ceiling.
She thought about cliffs and cars driving off them and metaphors.
She thought about Oksana, young and bold and unrestrained.
This was the cliff, and Eve was in the car. But she had no idea where Oksana fit into the scenario, if she did at all, and that bothered Eve more than the thought of the cliff itself.
Eve left her room a little while later. She’d tried hard not to think too much about the situation she found herself in. She figured, after she forced her body to calm down, that it was all just a product of the fight-or-flight response she’d had earlier. Shock and adrenaline did funny things to the body, to the brain, and Eve decided it just wasn’t worth trying to puzzle it all out right then and there.
Nevermind that she didn’t think she would ever want to really puzzle it out. She was more focused on the puzzles of other people, of Oksana and her past and her secrets. Eve didn’t bother to turn that focus on herself, really, because that sort of self-reflection was too dangerous to indulge in when you lived alone next to 500-foot cliffs and you had watched your best friend die and had stabbed a man with a ballpoint pen.
So Eve pushed all those pesky thoughts about feelings out of her mind, and she ventured back towards the kitchen. It was late afternoon, by that point, but to her surprise, Oksana was still where Eve had left her. She was reading a book with one hand, the other laying flat on the table, towel still wrapped firmly around it.
Eve sighed. “I thought you said you were going to take care of that.” She made sure not to be harsh. She wasn’t as worried and panicked as she’d been earlier, when anxiety had made a race circuit of her neural pathways and her reactions had happened too fast for rational thought. She just wanted the other woman to take care of herself.
Oksana didn’t glance up from her book when she replied, “I have. The towel is fine. The cut isn’t overly deep.”
Eve shook her head slightly, more to herself than anything. “Just hang on. I’ve got gauze somewhere, and then that way you don’t have to keep holding that towel on, at least.”
Oksana made no move to suggest she’d heard her, or cared, so Eve just turned and went to find her first aid kit. She returned a short while later with gauze and tape. She sat herself down in the chair next to Oksana and pointedly waited for her to stop reading.
Oksana’s eyes scanned the rest of the page lazily, and Eve might’ve gotten angry if she hadn’t found it rather amusing. The blonde's childish behaviour was no longer as aggravating as it had once been.
When she was done, Oksana shut the book and pushed it away with her good hand, then turned slightly in her chair to regard Eve levelly.
“You were very rude to me today.”
“I know, I’m sorry.” Eve reached gently for Oksana’s towel-wrapped hand. “I lost my head when I saw you’d fallen and- well, I shouldn’t have called you an idiot so much, it’s just, I told you not to go up there on your own.”
Oksana rolled her eyes. “I am not a child, Eve. You don’t get to tell me what to do.”
Any other time, Eve would have clenched her jaw in frustration. Instead, she pulled the blood-soaked towel off Oksana’s hand, letting her fingers trail along her soft skin as she did. “I know you’re not.”
If the other woman was surprised by Eve’s calmness, she didn’t show it other than a curious tilt of her head to the side before she resigned herself to Eve’s care. Eve lifted Oksana’s hand gingerly and peered at the gash across its back. “A bit deeper and you would’ve needed stitches.”
“I could stitch it myself.”
“I believe that.” It was becoming easier and easier for Eve to believe that there wasn’t anything that Oksana couldn’t do. She was an unstoppable force and an immovable object wrapped into one, some entity that defied the laws of physics.
Oksana sat in silence as Eve continued her work, but her eyes held hidden emotions. Eve tried not to imagine what the younger woman was thinking about, instead focusing on the last few turns of gauze as she held Oksana’s hand in hers. When she was finished, she tore off a few strips of tape to hold it all in place. Then she made to withdraw her hands. Oksana was quicker, though, and reached out with her freshly bandaged hand, grasping Eve’s in her own.
“You said you care about me.”
It was so uncharacteristically quiet that Eve almost didn’t register the words themselves, she was so startled by the soft way the woman spoke them. When she did, she answered with equal softness. “I do.”
She left it at that. Oksana glanced at their hands.
It was a quiet offering. Eve wasn’t sure if it was in response to the bandage or the fact that she said she cared, or maybe both. If it had been anyone else, that would have been the end of it.
But with Oksana, Eve let her gaze settle on the other woman until their eyes met. The softness of Oksana’s voice belied the intensity in her stare. Something in Eve’s chest thrummed. Oksana was still holding her hand, waiting on Eve to respond, maybe? Eve was trying to decipher all the meaning that could be held in those two simple words.
She lifted the hand that Oksana wasn’t holding and brought it to her jaw, settling her thumb across her cheekbone. Oksana’s eyes threatened to flutter closed but Eve watched her fight the impulse and continue to stare at her with a fierce determination. Determination to do what, Eve wasn’t sure.
“It’s nothing,” Eve told her, whispering.
It was not nothing. This was everything, everything she’d been turning around in her mind while laying on her bed earlier that day. This was the cliff.
Oksana’s eyes dropped to Eve’s lips, lingered, came up again. “Eve…”
It wasn’t a warning. Eve wondered if it was a request. She let her own gaze fall to Oksana’s lips, and it stayed there as she felt herself hinge forward slowly, hand still pressed to Oksana’s jaw, holding them together with Oksana’s bandaged hand still covering her own.
Eve let her eyes shut at the last possible moment, and that was why she missed it. Oksana’s gaze drifted over Eve’s shoulder, to the kitchen window, drawn by a movement outside. Eve only felt the other woman pull back suddenly, and before embarrassment could even take hold, Oksana was pushing out of the chair to stand.
“There are people outside your house.”
“Are you expecting company?” Oksana’s voice was clipped in some strange way that Eve had never heard before, except maybe the night that Hugo had come by. When Oksana hadn’t known who was knocking at the door.
“No, I’m- what’s wrong?” Eve was reeling. She had just tried to kiss her, but hadn’t because Oksana had pulled back, and now Oksana was very obviously troubled. The blonde began backing out of the kitchen, not quite panicked, grim resignation painting her features instead.
“I’m sorry, Eve. I- I can’t- I have to-”
A knock came at the door. Oksana swore under her breath before making for Eve’s bedroom.
“What are you doing?” Eve was pushing herself out of the chair now. Her brain still seemed to want to linger on the fact that they had almost kissed, but she was beginning to register that something was definitely not okay. She took one step towards Oksana but before she could do or say much of anything there came another firm knock at the front door.
“Go,” Oksana commanded her in an urgent whisper, shooing her with her hands, looking at her with something Eve thought might’ve been akin to regret. Then she ran into Eve’s room and shut the door.
Eve was too confused to argue, so she turned and made for the front door. When she swung it open she was shocked at what she found.
The man standing on her doorstep was tall and probably in his mid-thirties. He had brown skin, black hair, and friendly eyes which seemed to contradict the urgency of his knocking at her door. He was dressed in a suit with a long trench coat on and a pair of brown leather Oxfords that were definitely not suited to traipsing about in the countryside. Behind him, two uniformed police officers stood blank-faced.
Eve had a fleeting rush of annoyance. She should’ve changed her goddamn last name.
“My name is Inspector Jafari. We heard from Tom Callum that you may have some information that could help us, and I was hoping you could come down to the station and answer a few questions. You see, we’re looking for this woman-”
He pulled out a photograph- no, a poster. Its headline read:
Below the bold, red font was a picture of a woman. Eve felt the air leave her lungs. Not in a rush or a gasp; it simply vanished into a vacuum, ceasing to exist, as she registered what she was looking at.
The flimsy piece of paper couldn’t do her justice. The photo was poorly rendered and maybe the printer had been low on ink. But to Eve, it was unmistakable. She stared at the photo and tried to remember how to breathe.
Oksana’s face stared back.
you can yell at me on tumblr @filthynebula if you feel so inclined
Chapter 12: Dead End
spoilers for the s3 finale in the bottom note fyi
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Eve sighed for what felt like the hundredth time. She checked the analog clock mounted on the wall for the thousandth time. She thought about Oksana for the millionth time. Inspector Jafari tapped the Interpol wanted poster with his index finger for the fourth time since placing it on the table in front of her.
“Her name is Oksana Astankova but she has multiple aliases, including the pseudonym ‘Villanelle’.”
“You can call me V.”
Eve felt her chest tighten at the remembered conversation, an echo from so many weeks ago. Inspector Jafari didn’t appear to notice her tension, or else he chalked it up to her discomfort at the general experience of being questioned in a police station, and understood that almost no one would find it to be a particularly pleasant one. Eve thought that, under different circumstances, she might like Inspector Jafari.
“We also were told by Tom Callum that she was using an American alias, first name ‘Billie’.” Eve’s fist clenched at the mention of Oksana’s fake name, and the inspector eyed her hand warily before continuing. “Ms. Polastri, please understand, you’re not in any trouble. This woman is a master manipulator and wanted criminal. We would just like any information you have about her. Mr. Callum told us she was with you when you visited his farm last month.”
Eve’s throat felt dry, cracked like a desert and coated in dust. She reached for the glass of water that Jafari- she’d learned that his first name was Mo but she really didn’t want to get too personal- had brought to the table for her. She took a sip with a trembling hand, barely able to keep herself from spilling water down her chin. Placing the glass back on the stainless steel table, Eve opened her mouth and tried to force words to come out.
“She- Billie- or, uh, Villanelle?” Eve frowned at the unfamiliar name. “She said her car had broken down and she just needed a place to crash for a day. She came with me to Tom’s so that she wouldn’t be alone in my house.”
It took several seconds for Eve to realize what she’d just done. She’d lied. She’d lied about a fucking criminal to a fucking inspector and for what? What was she protecting, really, other than the idea of a woman who had so royally fucked her over.
Well. That wasn’t entirely fair. Oksana hadn’t done anything to her , really. She’d just… omitted a lot.
A lot, Eve thought ruefully, her eyes drawn back to the poster on the table in front of her.
Oksana ‘Villanelle’ ASTANKOVA
Wanted by: Russia, Netherlands, Spain
For: Arson, Grand Larceny, Grand Theft Auto, Murder in the Second Degree, Murder in the First Degree
Eve didn’t want to dwell on the last two charges. She didn’t want to dwell on any of it. She wanted to get up from the table and demand to be driven back home so that she could forget that any of it had ever happened. The only other alternative, in her mind, was standing up and puking her guts out all over the table, the poster, and maybe the inspector’s shoes, because she was definitely starting to feel a bit ill, and maybe this was what shock was supposed to feel like.
It didn’t feel like the courtroom at Bill’s murder trial. It didn’t feel like the vengeful motion of stabbing a pen into a man’s hand.
This felt like the world falling away beneath her feet.
Eve snorted to herself. Now this felt like falling off of a fucking cliff.
Inspector Jafari noticed her reaction and creased his brow. “Something amusing, Ms. Polastri?”
Eve sighed. “Not amusing, just… well, I remember she said something about travelling Europe but I guess I just didn’t imagine those travels would look quite like this,” Eve waved a hand over the list of offences that Oksana was accused of. She didn’t dwell on how easy it had been to lie once again.
The inspector’s face softened. “You thought she was an innocent American sweetheart. It’s not your fault. Is there anything else you can tell us? Did she mention any people or places?”
Eve rubbed her hand at her forehead. “No, no. But it wouldn’t matter, would it? Like you said, she’s a manipulator. Every word out of her mouth was almost definitely a lie.”
Like every word coming out of mine.
Except that Oksana had told Eve her real name. That had to count for something, didn’t it?
Jafari nodded slowly. “Yes, well. That is the unfortunate reality of dealing with cases like this. Still, if you do think of anything, please let us know.”
Eve risked a question. “I just… how did she wind up here?” She knew that it was a shipwreck of some sort. She wanted to know how much the authorities knew. So that she could… what, protect Oksana somehow?
No, that would be foolish. She just wanted to know. She needed to know if anything, anything at all, had been true.
The inspector frowned slightly, perhaps unsure if he could divulge the details to a civilian. He spoke quickly when he came to the decision to tell her.
“She and an associate fled Rotterdam about seven weeks ago. We believe they encountered bad weather and were forced ashore here in the UK. The associate was spotted in Cambridge and we were notified, and since he was in the region we decided to broaden our search for Ms. Astankova.”
Eve frowned. “Her associate?”
“No others. Just me and… just me.”
“Fine. Myself and one other. But I do not think he will be here.”
“Yes,” Jafari glanced at his wristwatch, as if realizing that Eve had nothing more to tell him and would only have more questions the longer they sat together in the station. “An older Russian man, goes by Konstantin. We believe he’s ex-FSB.”
If the entirety of the conversation hadn’t already been so absurd, Eve might’ve felt her jaw drop. Instead, she was rather immune to any more surprises and simply nodded at the inspector like Oksana working with a former Russian intelligence agent made all the sense in the world. She was starting to accept that it really, really did.
“Do you have a photo of him? Does he have his own poster?” Eve fought to keep the tired bitterness from her voice but it seeped in along the edges, oozing in and threatening to creep down her throat and into her chest. It itched to choke out all the feelings she’d recently developed for Oksana.
“His crimes are not nearly so… noteworthy.”
“But he is a criminal, then?”
The inspector tilted his head from side to side, as if to say ‘yes and no’. “There are no authorities actively pursuing him for a crime, but he is a known associate of Vill- Ms. Astankova-” Jafari corrected himself. “And so we would like to bring him in for questioning if given the opportunity. But none of that really applies, here, Ms. Pol- Eve, sorry. It’s been a long day.”
You have no fucking idea.
“I’ll have someone drive you back to your home.” With that, the inspector stood up and excused himself. He gave Eve a final, parting glance. “You have my card if you need anything.” Then he walked off into some other part of the station, likely to inform the rest of his team that Eve had been a dead end.
She certainly felt like a dead end. Stopped short, cut off, unable to move forward. She sighed, and when a young officer politely told her that he would drive her home, she didn’t say a word, merely nodding as he led her out the door.
She wondered if Oksana would still be at her home. She tried to envision confronting the woman about everything she’d learned in the past several hours. She couldn’t even imagine where to begin.
Oksana was gone. Eve wasn’t sure if she was surprised or not. A part of her had hoped she’d still be there, hiding in Eve’s bedroom.
The house was dark when she finally made it back. The young officer bade her a polite farewell before slowly pulling out of her driveway and taking off down the dusty road. Dusk was settling in and Eve pulled her jacket tighter around herself. A breeze was picking up, beginning to whip her hair around her face as she wandered to her front door. She unlocked it, pushed it open, and didn’t trust herself to call out Oksana’s name.
Instead, she walked from room to room like a woman lost, adrift in her own home. The day had been endless. She barely remembered their interrupted moment in the kitchen; it seemed like a century ago.
I almost kissed a murderer. She wasn’t sure how it made her feel.
When she was absolutely certain that Oksana had left, she collapsed on the couch. She thought that maybe she should try to sift and sort through her jumbled emotions, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. It was too much for one person to handle at once. She couldn’t remember if it had been like this when Bill had died. She’d worked hard to force a lot of that period of her life from her memory.
Eve sighed and fell sideways, letting her head fall against the pillow that Oksana had used, inhaling deeply and trying to find it in herself to regret doing so. She heard a crinkling kind of noise and frowned. Slowly, she reached up under the pillow and pulled out a piece of paper. It was creased and a bit tattered but the handwriting written across it was plain as day.
Sorry Baby, x
Eve wanted to crumple it in her hand. She wanted to ball it up and toss it across the room and shout at the top of her lungs. Or maybe she would eat the note instead, and devour all her feelings while she was at it, just to get them out of her head. She did none of those things, though, instead letting let the slip of paper fall between her fingers and onto the floor as she forced herself to close her eyes and try to sleep.
Oksana was still gone the next morning.
Eve felt her absence like a living thing. She woke up to find that Oksana had been replaced by a hollow, heavy beast, born from Eve’s concern and frustration and confusion and exhaustion. It coiled a barbed tail around her heart as she padded over to the kitchen to make herself coffee, still groggy from a sleep that hardly merited the title.
She thought maybe she was being overdramatic. She knew Oksana would have had to leave eventually. She just hadn’t imagined that it would be so… abrupt. She thought coffee might make her feel better, a little caffeine to jump-start her day, but her coffee tasted like shit, doubly, and she poured it down the drain without a second thought.
She was surprised at how awful she felt. But she supposed that the night before had been bad, and the sleep worse, and the morning was simply intent on kicking her while she was down.
Or was it Oksana, and not the morning, who was to blame.
Eve figured it would make more sense when she was less bleary. She pulled on a sweater and moved in a daze to the front door, pulling it open and plopping into her rocking chair.
She’d had a faint hope that maybe Oksana would be out there, waiting for her like she had the morning after the incident with Hugo. But no one surprised her, and Eve sat alone until long after sunrise.
Eventually, a grumbling stomach persuaded her to venture back inside the house. She’d spent some time trying to sort through her thoughts, and she thought she might’ve figured some things out, but it was all conjecture, really, because what did it matter if Oksana was gone?
Eve would never get to confront her about all those things on her wanted poster. About her past and the lies by omission and the convenient way she forgot to mention that she was a woman on the run. Or about how she’d wormed her way into Eve’s home and made Eve feel safe when, in reality, she was a killer. Or the way she’d taken up residence in the core of Eve’s chest, in the space between her ribs, and now it ached something dreadful without her.
Eve would never confront her about their almost-kiss.
She put her fingers to her lips in a daze, wondering if they’d feel different if she had actually kissed a killer.
She stood there, distrait, until her cell phone rang. It’s muffled ringtone echoed from the bedroom, and Eve couldn’t help but wonder if maybe… just maybe…
She ran. She practically launched herself onto her bed, digging around for her phone, until she felt it connect with her fingertips. In her rush, she didn’t bother to check the number.
“Hello?” She was breathless- from exertion, from hope.
“Eve, hi, uh, it’s Tom.”
He really had no need to say so, given that it was rather obvious. Tom couldn’t say Eve’s name with the same arrogance or amusement. It wasn’t husky or low or rich with the slant of a Russian accent. It wasn’t soft. It wasn’t-
Eve shut her eyes and willed her brain to shut the fuck up about it. Then she sighed into the phone. “Hi, Tom. What’s up?”
“I was just calling to check in… you, uh, left in a bit of a rush yesterday when I called, I didn’t get the chance to tell you about the cops coming by.”
Eve faintly remembered Tom’s stammered words from the day before. It had been right when Oksana had fallen off the roof, and she’d been more preoccupied with that than with whatever Tom had been wanting to tell her.
How would the day have gone differently if she had let him finish his sentences? If Oksana had never fallen off the roof and interrupted them?
Eve might’ve been warned that she was sharing her home with a wanted criminal. She might never have bandaged the woman’s hands, tender touches in a room heavy with something like affection. She would’ve never almost kissed her.
Eve sighed again. “Yeah, they came by in the evening. It’s alright, Tom. I- sorry- I was just-”
The wavering of her voice was a prelude to the tears that began to well up in her eyes. Eve didn’t want to cry. She still wasn’t really sure how she felt about everything, but apparently her body had had enough. It needed to release something of her emotions, lest they drown her from the inside out.
“Everything alright, Eve? I’m real sorry if those police caused you any trouble. It was just that I saw the wanted poster when I went into town yesterday morning. They had it up in the window of the police station and, well, her name wasn’t on it, then, was it? Billie . But it was her, and I walked up to the front desk in the station and told them that I had information for them about that woman… what did they call her… Villa-somethin’.”
“Villanelle,” Eve offered, her voice monotone. She forced her emotions back down her throat. “I guess it’s her alias or something.”
“Well, now, they told me she’s got plenty of those. Anyway, I told them about your visit a few weeks ago and when they heard I’d actually seen and talked with her, well, they sat me down and asked all sorts of questions.”
Tom’s earlier hesitance seemed to vanish as he carried on with his story. Eve was concentrating on not breaking down into harsh sobs. Tom seemed to realize she might not have been enjoying the conversation when he paused for a few seconds and Eve stayed silent.
“Ah. Er, well, anyway Eve, it’s all cleared up now, innit? She’s long gone and they’ll either find her or they won’t but she’s away from us.” His tone changed from unintentionally condescending to something brighter and more vibrant when he added, “And hey, I’ve got great news for you! Molly is pregnant! You can come and pick her up whenever you’re ready.”
Eve felt her lips pull into a weak smile. It was good news, if the bittersweet kind, because Oksana still weighed heavily on her mind. Eve wondered if, wherever she was, the woman would be disappointed that she hadn’t gotten another chance to see Molly again.
Stupid, stupid, Eve chastised herself at the thought. Bill, I’ve been so fucking stupid.
She sighed, heavy and unhappy, while Tom continued to prattle on about the goats.
i wrote this chapter before 3x08 aired and y'all best believe i feel like a true clown for having these two be separated at the exact moment we finally got a season finale that ended with them together.
also, next chapter everyone's favourite girl is back!
(yes, i'm referring to sweet Molls the goat)
Chapter 13: Thirst for Knowledge
1 week since the finale, hows everyone doing?
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Eve drove out to Tom’s the next morning. The day before had been spent in an emotionless-emotional fog. Her feelings curled like mist around the trunks of great, towering trees, clutching and clinging at her. Yet whenever she thought she might be able to grasp at them in turn, they slipped through her fingers and left her cold and confused.
She thought she should be angry, and she was. She thought she should be sad, and she was that too. Betrayed. Abandoned. Foolish. Awestruck. All those and more, she felt them like oil on water along the blood in her veins.
In an effort to put the mess of it out of her mind, she turned the radio on as she drove out to the farm. Noise came out of the speakers but she hardly registered it at all. She thought about Oksana and her confidence and the way she’d commented on all the murders in every movie they’d watched together. Their dramatic flair, or lack thereof. Their premeditation, impulsivity, or inspiration. Eve thought about how she’d known so much about stab wounds, gunshots, and how to treat the cut across the back of her hand…
A deer burst from the underbrush and Eve had to slam on the brakes of her beat-up old truck, swerving onto the shoulder so as not to collide with the animal. She screamed a little as she did it and pulled over for a few moments to catch her breath.
She thought about that deer, running wild. She thought about Oksana, running free.
Eve shook her head to herself and pulled slowly back onto the single-lane roadway, vaguely wondering what might’ve happened if she hadn’t swerved in time.
Molly was indeed pregnant, and despite everything going on inside her mind, Eve had to admit that that was good news. She and Tom had worked out an arrangement a few years back on how to proceed with the situation, and it had worked well for them so far. Tom provided the conditions for Molly to get pregnant, and then Eve took her back to the homestead and cared for her until she gave birth. When she did, Eve took care of the kids for about two months until they went back to Tom, and Eve kept Molly until she was due to get pregnant again.
Eve had learned quickly that some aspects of farming and ranching and just raising an animal, in general, were kind of weird. At least, weird to her, a city girl who had spent over a decade living in London and had only ever owned a low maintenance pet chicken. She’d never imagined that owning a goat would require her to broker some sort of livestock coital agreement with her neighbour, but without it, Molly wouldn’t produce the milk Eve needed.
“I am a goat pimp,” Eve muttered to herself as she led Molly into the trailer. She was grateful that Tom was too far away to hear her. His concern for her would probably only grow if he had overheard.
He seemed to think that Eve was particularly shaken up by her meeting with the police. In reality, he had no idea what had so thoroughly fucked with her head, and Eve had absolutely no desire to explain it. Instead, once Molly was loaded into the trailer and hitched to the truck, Eve bade him a polite goodbye and set off for the homestead, eager to put Molly in her pen and a drink in her hand.
Returning Molly to the yard was a bittersweet exercise in memory repression. She forced herself not to think about the day she’d spied on Oksana, watching her crouch in the dirt and coo at the goat, scratching her chin like a small child with a dog. Eve gave Molly a fond pat on the head when she wandered back into her pen. Then, despite her best intentions, Eve crouched down and looked at Molly’s rectangular, alien eyes.
“Did you like her?”
Molly stared back.
“You know who I’m talking about. I know, she was a bit of an asshole. Still, you two seemed to get along so well, I just wonder if you’ll miss her now…”
Molly flicked her stubby tail at passing flies.
“You know, Molly, while you were away… I almost kissed her.” Eve’s stare shifted to the ground. “I almost kissed her and you know what I find bothering me the most about all of this… is that she pulled away too soon for us to… well, anyway, how stupid is that? She’s a killer, Molly.”
“Yes! She is! Her, of all people. I’m surprised she’s the killer rather than the one being killed, given how obnoxious and annoying and rude and spoiled and bratty and-”
Molly huffed once and dipped her head to chew a tuft of grass at Eve’s feet. Eve sighed.
“Yeah, I guess it’s just you and me again, hey?”
The first week without Oksana passed in a strange state of rapid slowness. Each day was endless, and Eve sought to fill her time with chores and cooking and walking to the cliffs just to take in the view, but still, each day passed at a snail’s pace. Then, suddenly, it was the end of the week, and Eve couldn’t remember what she’d done four days prior, or even the day before, because the whole time she’d been in some strange mental fog.
That was one of the downsides of living all alone. There was no one to pull her out of her own head if she ever wound up stuck there. Which was most certainly where she was now.
She had reached one decision, though. She had come to the conclusion that the reason that it was all so hard to process was that she didn’t understand any of it all. She didn’t know enough, didn’t have all of the facts, and she stubbornly refused to pass judgement on Oksana when the other woman couldn’t defend herself. Especially if there were unknown variables in the equation.
It grated on her that they would always remain unknown.
Eve had never liked the unknown. She was too curious for it. It was what had made Oksana such a thorn in her side. Now that the thorn had been removed, Eve found herself missing the sting of it. Something about its consistent itch had been reassuring, in a way.
At the end of the first week, Eve finally cried. It was uncharacteristic and probably more to do with the entire bottle of wine she’d had to herself than the actual severity of her own emotions, but in her drunken state she thought of Oksana and it was all downhill from there.
The next morning she woke up hungover and head pounding, and she stayed in bed until long after noon. At around 3 o'clock she finally dragged herself out from beneath the sheets and forced herself to shower. She ate leftovers and resisted the urge to open another bottle of wine. Things would need doing the next day and she couldn’t go and develop a bad habit at a time like this.
She wondered if there was ever a good time to take up a bad habit, or if they sprouted amongst your routines like mold when the regularity of your life was beyond its best before date and other things began to flourish under your lack of care.
She needed to stop thinking about it so much. The perfect distraction came when someone knocked at the front door later that evening.
It wasn’t Oksana. Eve knew it in her gut. Oksana wouldn’t have knocked. She would’ve just let herself in and told Eve not to run, even though she was a wanted criminal.
It wasn’t Oksana. It was a surprise, though.
“Who are you?” Eve barked when she’d opened the front door.
A man stood on her doorstep, looking at once amused and uneasy. He was probably in his late fifties, with white hair, a cropped beard, and broad shoulders. He was dressed casually and he held his hands in his pockets with a relaxed air that spoke of familiarity. It reminded Eve of...
“I am a friend of Villanelle’s.”
Oh. That’s who. Eve should’ve asked who he was, why he had come, or how he had found her. She should’ve asked any question at all, but instead,
“Her name is Oksana.”
The man shrugged. “If you would prefer. She does not use it often, her birth name, but she is not here to argue about it so it makes no difference to me.”
Eve studied the man. She’d never seen him before but she had a feeling. He spoke with the same Russian accent and he had the same casual bearing about him. “You’re Konstantin, aren’t you?” Eve jutted her chin out at him, arms folded across her chest. “Did she tell you to come here?”
Konstantin shrugged. “She told me where to find you. She seemed concerned with your wellbeing. It is a foreign thing for her. I think she did not know how to ask me to look after you.”
Eve frowned. “Is that what you’re here for then? To look after me?”
“I am simply checking in.” Konstantin held his hands in a half shrug before knitting his eyebrows together and regarding her curiously. “Are you always this hostile?”
“No.” It came out harsh and aggressive.
“Hm.” He sounded amused. “I see why she likes you. You are… fiesty.”
“You are a feisty one. I know because I heard you shouting at your appliances.”
Eve shut her eyes, took a deep breath, and forced the memory from her mind. “Why are you here, Konstantin?”
She didn’t realize how exhausted she sounded until the words left her mouth. They carried a heaviness born from spending several days wallowing in self-pity. She could almost see them written in the early evening air, sagging with her emotional baggage.
Konstantin answered her question with a question. “May I come inside, Eve?”
Suddenly impatient, Eve didn’t reply but merely turned on her heel and walked stiff-backed into the house. The door stayed open behind her. A few seconds later she heard heavy footfalls across the wooden floor and the soft click of the door as it closed again.
“You want something to drink?” she asked, not bothering to turn and face the man as she strode purposefully into the kitchen.
“Whatever you are having, that is fine.”
Eve scoffed. “You come all this way and you show up unannounced on my doorstep. At this point, you may as well inconvenience me with your drink choice. At least that way we can both get something we want.” She turned and looked at Konstantin expectantly.
He arched an eyebrow. “Vodka, if you have it. Gin, if you do not. And what are you getting that you want, out of this situation?”
“Easy,” Eve answered, turning and heading towards the cupboard above the stovetop that held her stash of liquor. “I’m getting answers.”
She grabbed a mostly full bottle of vodka and a nearly empty bottle of gin. She found two clean glasses and poured them both two fingers worth. “Ice?”
“No thank you.”
“Hm.” Eve presented Konstantin with his drink. “Shall we?” She turned and headed towards the sitting room. Konstantin followed behind.
“You are… not what I expected.”
“Oh?” Eve asked as she sat on the couch. Konstantin took the armchair. “What were you expecting?”
He smiled at some personal joke as he lifted the glass to his lips and took a sip of the vodka. Then, “She has a type. You are it, to be sure. But also, you are not. She is sneaky and likes to play games, sometimes. I would say usually she goes for the ones who fall into the trap very easily. Who are so blinded by her charms that they do not see all of her dirty, little tricks.”
Eve clenched her grip tight around her glass. Konstantin didn’t seem to notice.
“You are not some weak-minded woman who has fallen for her so quickly, like the others. My guess is that she wore you down. But, unlike the others before you, she speaks very highly of you. She cares what you think of her, and that is new.”
Konstantin arched an eyebrow. “Am I offending you, Eve? These are just facts.”
“I said stop. I… I don’t want to talk about my place in this. I said I wanted answers.” Eve took a gulp of gin and wiped the back of her hand across her mouth. “Tell me about Oksana.”
Konstantin leaned forward in the chair and put his forearms across his knees. He seemed to be studying her, and then he looked down at the vodka in his glass. He flicked his wrist so that the alcohol swirled around a few times. He didn’t look up at Eve when he began speaking. “I met Villa- hm, Oksana -in Russia, two years ago. She was… troubled, growing up, so they told me.”
Konstantin looked up at her. “Do you want to know about Oksana or about them? I cannot give you both, Eve.”
Eve frowned at him and felt irritation bubble in her chest. She took another sip of gin to stop herself from snapping at him. “Fine. Go on.”
“She was going to be sent to prison. Second-degree murder. You saw that on her file, I think, when they told you about who she really is. The organization I work for, they… made it so she did not need to go to the prison. They offered her a job. She took it and became my responsibility. I am like her boss. She doesn’t work for me, she works for them, but she is accountable to me. Usually.” Konstantin shrugged at that.
When Eve made no move to speak, he sighed and leaned back heavily. “What more do you want, Eve? Why does it matter? She is gone.”
Eve leaned forward on the couch, staring at him coldly. “It matters to me.” She cocked her head to the side slightly as if to challenge him. “I want to know everything.”
Eve sat back against the couch and took another sip of her gin. It was her second glass and nearly empty at that. Her throat burned from it but she didn’t mind. Across from her, Konstantin watched her levelly from the armchair. Neither of them spoke. Eve was taking in everything he had told her.
Oksana had been born in Gryzmet, a small town in rural Russia. Konstantin had either glossed over the details of her childhood or he simply hadn’t had the details to spare, but Eve had gotten the gist of it. Abusive mother. Absent father. Abandonment, at some point, although the exact circumstances were unclear.
Where Konstantin had been vague on Oksana’s early childhood, he had known a lot about her teenage years and onward. Probably because that was where, apparently, her most violent behaviours had begun. He had described a woman, Anna, who was Oksana’s teacher. She and Oksana began a relationship, despite Anna being married, and when the woman had tried to call it off, Oksana had killed her husband. In retaliation or desperation or some twisted declaration of love, Eve couldn’t be sure. She would have to ask Oksana about it, sometime, she mused.
It was a good sign that she was able to muse about that sort of thing, wasn’t it? It meant she was forgiving and understanding, right? Even if it was about a murdered husband...
First, she lied to Interpol, now she found second-degree murder to be only a minor character flaw. Eve tried not to think about her wavering moral compass.
Oksana was due to be found guilty and sentenced to a minimum of fifteen years. Konstantin said his ‘organization’ stepped in and recruited her for work, faking her death and essentially giving her a clean slate. From then on, she killed the people that they wanted killed, no questions asked, and they paid her handsomely and kept her out of prison. Eve could understand the allure of the deal.
“What do you do for work?”
“If I told you, you would not believe me."
Eve found herself slow to push that memory away. She found that she was less angry than before. Less sad. Less confused. Instead, she felt more complete than she had in the past week, finally able to piece together the details of the woman’s life. It was reassuring, in a way that maybe should’ve shocked her, to know that while Oksana may have been a killer, she was also undeniably human; someone who had gone through trauma and loss and been severely unable to cope. She was not to blame for the cruel home she'd been raised in. It didn't mean she was innocent now, but...
Eve’s heart ached and she wondered, again, where Oksana might be at that moment.
“Tell me about Rotterdam.”
Konstantin sighed in exasperation. “You are very greedy, you know that?”
Eve flashed him a smile with no real mirth to it. She may have been understanding Oksana better, but her compassion didn’t extend to the man sitting in the seat across from her. “Get another drink if you need to.”
Konstantin took her up on that offer and heaved himself out of the chair. “I did not think that this is what I would be doing when I came all the way out here, you know.”
“Oh?” Eve indulged him just to be polite. Her curiosity extended to Oksana only.
“Yes. Honestly, I was not sure what I would find. But this… how you say it, ‘thirst for knowledge’... You are so curious about her. Why?”
Eve blinked. Why was she so driven to know everything she could about Oksana? Something about the other woman had a hold over her. She remembered feeling the desire to collide with her. To collide and engulf and be engulfed and- Eve shook her head to clear the thoughts. “It doesn’t matter why. Now stop stalling.”
Konstantin made his way back to the chair and sat down, perching himself on its edge like he hoped to leave any minute. “Rotterdam was another job. The target was liked sailing and yachts and-” he waved his hand “-boat things. Villanelle wanted to do something on the water, on his yacht, I think. She was in the middle of the job when police arrived at the docks because the target had been accused of drug trafficking. She killed him and stole his boat. The way she tells it, she did not have many other options for escape.”
“You can’t be serious.”
“I am,” Konstantin assured her. “She likes to be dramatic, hm? She called me and asked me to meet her, and I did. I hadn’t known yet that the job had been- what is the word- ‘botched’, yes? But thinking back on it, I should have ignored her and taken a train. Why did I get on the boat?”
It was obviously rhetorical so Eve didn’t bother to try giving him an answer. “It doesn’t seem to have harmed you much, though,” she said. “You made it here, and you aren’t being hunted by the authorities the way she is.”
“No, because I am not sloppy. She made mistakes, now she faces the consequences.”
“And you aren’t going to help her?”
Konstantin frowned at her. “I am here, aren’t I?”
Eve crossed her arms across her chest. “That’s not what I meant and you know it. She’s out there, alone, and you aren’t even trying to make sure she’s safe.”
“Eve, she has access to money and passports, apartments and cars and anything else a person could need. She will be fine.”
Eve ground her teeth. She changed topics. “You said she’s killed many times. Why are there only two murder charges on her file?”
“She is very good at what she does. Those two were the only ones ever conclusively traced to her. One was Anna’s husband. The other was her mother.”
Eve felt her jaw drop slightly in disbelief. “Her mother?”
Konstantin nodded. “Shortly before Rotterdam she took a vacation, she said. She went home. I guess she did not like what she found. She killed her mother and set her home on fire. She had spent several days in town, they all knew she was an outsider, and so when the burned-out home was discovered and she was gone, they naturally assumed it was her. I think there was one witness, a boy…” He trailed off and then shrugged.
Eve let Konstantin’s words hang in the air for several moments. She remembered the vague comments he had made about Oksana’s mother, how she could be cruel and unkind and manipulative. If Konstantin, who hardly knew about Oksana’s childhood, knew that much, Eve imagined that the reality of it had been far, far worse. Especially for a child.
Eve nodded once. “Good for her.”
Konstantin looked surprised. Eve wasn’t sure if she should have said it, but she knew that it felt right. She didn’t feel the need to elaborate and Konstantin didn’t ask her to. They sat in silence for a bit longer, Konstantin taking the occasional sip from his vodka, Eve rolling her now empty glass back and forth between her palms.
Finally, Konstantin broke the silence. “She has been… different since Gryzmet. I sometimes wonder if she wanted to be caught in Holland. And you know… when I saw her last, she said a thing that surprised me. She said that she wanted to retire.”
Eve forced herself not to snap her gaze to him too quickly, to appear too interested. “Really?” She said it with as little enthusiasm as she could manage.
Konstantin nodded. “I think, if she ever manages to get away from the police, she may try to leave the organization altogether.”
“And that would be…”
“Difficult. But not impossible.” Konstantin threw his head back and downed the last of his drink. Then, he pushed himself out of the armchair, evidently ready to leave. “I must go now.”
Eve was unfazed by his abruptness. She merely nodded like she’d expected nothing less. It wasn’t until Konstantin had his hand on the handle of the front door that a final question tumbled from her lips.
“How is she?”
Konstantin paused and turned to look at her over his shoulder. “As I said, she is… different. I do not know if it is good or bad. But she is motivated.”
“Yes. To get them off her trail. To disappear. I think she would come back here if she could.”
Eve felt her throat go dry. “You think she’d come back?”
Konstantin regarded her with a thoughtful look. “If given the opportunity, yes. You make things different for her. She has changed, and is changing still, and you are somehow a part of it.”
He let his words hang between them for a few moments. Then he nodded once, opened the door, and walked out into the night.
i know Villanelle actually went to prison but i didn't feel like adding it in this fic, thank you for your understanding.
Also i was not kidding, i really did just mean Molly was back. BUT next week there will be ANOTHER familiar face who returns.
Chapter 14: Unadvisable
'I cannot weave –
slender Aphrodite has overcome me
with longing for a girl’
but replace weaving with writing and you have me this past week. But I still got it done, here it is fam.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Eve sat on the couch for a while longer after Konstantin left. She got up once to pour herself another drink before returning to the cushions and letting gravity hold her down. Sipping at her gin every once in a while, Eve mulled over everything Konstantin had told her.
She no longer felt angry or sad about Oksana’s abrupt departure. She hardly felt bothered by the woman’s job as a hired killer, either. What she found herself circling around most was the growing feeling of unease, of concern, at the thought of Oksana out there on her own, running from the police and trying to quit an organization that probably considered death to be the only viable retirement scheme.
She tried not to dwell on Konstantin’s words.
“I think she would come back here if she could. She has changed, and is changing still, and you are somehow a part of it.”
Eve sighed. She supposed that she should scrounge up some sort of meal before she got too drunk by herself, alone on a couch that smelled like blackberries and a Russian assassin.
It was later on, nearing midnight, when Eve’s phone rang. She was laying in bed, not really sleepy but not really awake, either, when she heard the harsh sound of the cellphone vibrating against the wood of her bedside table. She flung her arm out haphazardly and fumbled for the device. When she found it, she brought it back to her ear rather harshly.
“Eve! God, I was worried you might be dead or something!”
“Huh..?” Maybe Eve was sleepier than she thought. It took her a moment to register her friend’s voice. “Elena?”
“Duh. No time to give you shit for that now, though. Are you alright?”
“What? Yes, Elena, I’m… fine.” Eve wasn’t sure why Elena was sounding so panicked. Unless…
“Eve, I just found out, I’m so sorry! I should’ve checked in sooner but honestly, it slipped my mind with work and Kenny and all.”
“Found out about what?”
“Oksana, of course! You living with a psycho murderer!
“Oh, right. That.”
‘Psycho murderer’ didn’t seem right. It didn’t sit well with Eve. She decided not to tell Elena that, though, at that moment. “I just found out, uh… recently. She’s not here anymore, by the way. In case you were concerned. How did you find out?”
“I was concerned, Eve! Very! That’s why I’m calling! I heard about it from Carolyn, you know how she’s always so interested in freaky murderers and stuff like that. She mentioned that a Russian wanted for murder had been reported being seen in your area, and I just thought to look it up and I saw the Interpol notice and there was her face!” Elena paused to breathe and then said, “You seem to be taking it all rather… well?”
“No, I was- It’s just that I found out a few days ago and I’ve had some time to-”
“A few days?! And you didn’t tell me?”
Eve winced as Elena’s voice came in shrill and sharp through the line. She was glad she’d lied and not said that it had actually been a week. “Sorry,” she mumbled.
“It’s fine, love, but just… well, you obviously have to tell me everything about-”
Eve groaned before she could stop herself. “Elena, please can we just… not?”
“Eve, sorry, but there’s no chance I’m letting this go.”
“Fine, but just… tomorrow, okay? It’s late. I’m tired. It’s been… a night.”
“What does that mean?” Elena’s voice sounded excited. “She hasn’t come back, has she? Eve-”
“No. I’m just tired, Elena. Tomorrow, okay?” Eve felt the exhaustion creeping into her bones. Probably sped along by the alcohol consumption from earlier.
Elena was silent for a moment before she relented. “Alright, Eve. But tomorrow. I’ll call around 11.”
“Sure, sounds good.”
“Alright… well… goodnight hun.”
With that, Eve dropped her phone none too gently back onto the bedside table. She rolled over onto her stomach and groaned into her pillow, laying there until her lungs begged for something other than stale, pillowy air.
For a moment Eve tried to think about how she could handle her conversation with Elena the next day. That train of thought lasted all of twelve seconds before she called it quits. She was simply too tired to try to envision that scenario. Elena would be excited and nosy and Eve loved her but tired-Eve couldn’t fathom how the day might unfold.
Instead, she rolled to her side and felt herself quickly drifting into unconsciousness. She registered an errant thought of Oksana, wondering what she’d really been like as a kid, before her heavy eyelids drifted shut and sentenced her to sleep.
True to her word, Elena called Eve at 10:58. She was probably a couple of minutes early because she couldn’t wait for another second to hear all about Eve’s encounter with the Russian assassin currently being hunted by Interpol. For her part, Eve simply tried to brace herself for the onslaught of questions, and to not reveal exactly how much she knew.
It wasn’t that she didn’t trust Elena. She just thought maybe it would be better if no one else knew what she knew about Oksana. Especially how she’d found those things out. It wouldn’t do any good to have Interpol coming back to her front door to ask about Konstantin.
She was trying her best to protect Oksana from a distance, she realized. She felt foolish for it. The woman hardly needed her protection. And yet Eve just wanted her to be safe.
She cared a lot, she realized, for someone she’d known for so little time.
Her phone rang loudly from its place on the bedside table. Eve was in the kitchen doing the dishes and thinking about ratatouille as she glanced at her garden through the window above the sink. She almost missed the call and ended up sprinting down the hall to make it in time.
“Elena, hi,” she greeted hurriedly, slightly out of breath.
“Eve, love, open your front door.”
“I’m here and I’ve brought you croissants.”
The line went dead. Eve sighed and dropped her phone back onto the table. It was going to be much harder to keep secrets than she’d originally thought.
Eve walked out of her room and to the front door, forcing herself not to grumble about the unexpected visit as she went. She should have guessed, really, knowing Elena, that this might happen. She opened the front door and there she was, smiling deviously and holding up a brown paper bag to Eve like it was a sacrificial offering.
“Here, for your trouble.”
“You’re going to need a lot more than that,” Eve grumbled, but she reached out and took the bag anyway. “Come on, I’ll have to make more coffee if you want some.”
“I always want coffee,” Elena chimed gleefully, walking through the door behind Eve and kicking her shoes off hastily.
Blessedly, Elena waited until she’d sat herself down at the kitchen table before she began to harass Eve for the story. “So-” she opened the bag of croissants Eve had placed there and took one for herself, “-dish.”
Eve sighed from across the room. She was leaning back against the counter, hoping that the physical space between them would make it easier to get through the talk. Realistically, she knew she should maybe talk about it with someone, but, well, it was a bit nerve-racking to open up about the Russian assassin she’d been living with who had never so much as frightened her once. In fact, she’d been a lovable kind of asshole.
Eve forced lovable and all its derivatives from her mind.
“What do you want to know?” she asked, exhausted already.
“Don’t be so dramatic, Eve. Tell me everything, of course, from the moment I left your house last time ‘til now!”
Eve rolled her eyes. She turned to the sink and filled a clean glass with water just for something to do. Then she took a sip, swallowed slowly, and turned back to Elena. “Well, I guess that was around the time I harvested the racks…”
It took a long time to get through it all. Eve tried her best to leave out some of the more damning details. Not about Oksana, but about herself and her feelings and the way it was pretty clear that she cared about the younger woman. Eve didn’t want to hear a lecture about how irresponsible it was. She just wanted to get through the day relatively unscathed.
And Elena could scathe, when she wanted to.
At first, she’d been chiming in with comments and questions and off-handed remarks, but as Eve had continued on with the story, she’d slowly grown quieter. It was a bit disconcerting, to say the least. She had hardly even commented on Eve’s tryst with Hugo, which was a big red flag, of course. If Elena wasn’t even teasing her incessantly about sleeping with the ‘Human Dildo’ then something was up.
“...And then I bandaged her up, because she’d cut the back of her hand, and right as we were sitting at this table, Interpol showed up…”
It was a somewhat abridged version of events, of course. Eve wasn’t planning to tell Elena about how she’d nearly kissed a murderer. Or about all the soft touching and heavy silences and the way Eve’s eyes were drawn to Oksana and the way Oksana always, always caught her staring.
Eve wrapped up the story by quickly recounting her trip to the police station and her conversation over the phone with Tom. She glossed over the details of her week spent in utter misery without Oksana. And then she finished with an awkward, “-so, yeah… That’s it.”
Elena regarded Eve with a perceptive look. Eve felt like the other woman was trying to see deeper beneath the outline of the story. Eve hoped she couldn’t see far. And then,
“You slept with her didn’t you?”
“What?!” Eve pushed off the counter and gestured her arms a bit wildly. It probably looked ridiculous. “Of course not! Why would you even…”
“Eve, please, you have it written all over your face when you talk about her. You’ve got it bad, don’t you?”
“Elena, come on, that’s not funny-”
“I know you, Eve.”
“First of all-” Elena held up her right hand, index finger pointed, “You called Hugo up for sex because of what, exactly? And you did it while she was staying at your house? You couldn’t wait at all? Obviously something happened that made you really need to get laid. Maybe sharing your house with a hot Russian woman, hm?”
Eve opened her mouth to argue but Elena bulldozed over her.
“Next-” she held up another finger along with the first, “-you suspiciously left out any real details from the past month. Nothing about how you two spent your time together. Last time you were so convinced she was a snarky asshole, I would’ve expected you to have a few stories about some annoying shit that she’d done, but nothing. You just made vague comments about cooking meals and watching movies, which, by the way, movies? Sounds like a date night, that one-”
Eve tried to get a word in edgewise. “Elena, that’s not-”
“Third,” Elena pressed on, raising her voice a little over Eve’s protestations. “You’re not freaking out at all, Eve. You had a killer- hired assassin, whatever- living with you for over a month and then you find out what she is and you’re not even… I don’t know, you don’t even seem fazed by it! She kills people for a living, and you’re… bandaging her up, for Christ’s sake, after a little fall off of your roof!”
Eve cut in. “Hey! It wasn’t a little fall. She could’ve seriously hurt herself!”
“She could’ve seriously hurt you!” Elena was nearly shouting.
“But she didn’t, Elena! She could’ve but she didn’t. It’s not like she was hired to kill me. And I never felt unsafe with her, not even for one second. She was… helpful and… a dick, but also she had these moments of-” Eve held her hands up in exasperation, “-of genuine thoughtfulness and… I don’t think she’s a bad person, Elena. She just…”
“Made some bad decisions?” Elena offered, only a smidge of sarcasm in her voice.
Elena sighed. “Eve, this seems like… unadvisable. You and her.”
Eve frowned, anger or something like it bubbling in her chest. “Yeah, well, it’s not happening anyway, is it? She’s gone, Elena.” She turned and faced back towards the window, accepting defeat. “She’s gone.”
Eve heard the sound of Elena’s chair scraping against the floor as it was pushed back from the table. A few moments later, Elena appeared at Eve’s side, a hand resting gently on her shoulder.
“You’re pretty torn up about her.”
“I’m not- It’s just… It was just abrupt. The way she left. I know she had to, but, well, it felt like maybe things were going somewhere. Not there, necessarily, but somewhere.”
Elena frowned. “Alright. So you caught feelings for a Russian assassin. A hot Russian assassin, so I guess I can’t completely blame you. I mean, Eve, I did see her, and she is, well-,” Elena shrugged, “She’s top-shelf, isn’t she?”
Eve groaned. “You have no idea, Elena. Her body is just-” Eve cut herself off with another frustrated groan.
“But you didn’t sleep toge-"
“Just checking, love. ‘Cause you’re thirsting for her very aggressively right now.”
“Yeah. Well. I… thought about it.” Eve wasn’t sure why she was divulging it to Elena, but it was as though flood gates had burst open, and now that Elena knew everything-
Well, mostly everything,
-Eve couldn’t stop herself from wanting to share more. Even things that she probably shouldn’t have.
“You thought about it as in…”
“You know what I’m talking about. While I was…with Hugo...”
Elena put a hand over her mouth in shock, but her eyes shone with amusement. “Eve. You didn’t.”
Eve didn’t bother with a reply, she just gave Elena a withering look, daring her to say something. Elena got the hint, stayed silent for all of two seconds, and then burst out into a loud and shameless cackle.
“Eve, love, you are depraved and you need help.”
“Shut up,” Eve shot back, but without any real venom. Her lips were already curling into a smile.
Elena left an hour later. Eve waved to her from the front porch as she got into her car and drove down the lane. Then, she turned, went back inside and poured herself a large glass of red wine. She collapsed onto the couch, careful not to spill the horrendously full glass, before she laid her head back against the cushions and let out a heavy sigh of exhaustion.
The rest of the visit with Elena had been spent dredging up as many details of the past month as Eve could remember and was willing to share. Once Elena knew that Eve had, as she’d put it, ‘caught feelings’, she was like a bloodhound with a scent, chasing every little clue as to when and how and what exactly had happened to make Eve get attached.
By the end of it, they had come to the vague conclusion that Eve having feelings for Oksana was probably irresponsible, but that it didn’t really matter anymore anyway. Of course, Eve hadn’t mentioned Konstantin’s visit at all, or his parting words to her about Oksana’s desire to return to the homestead. That would’ve just made it all even more… complicated.
Eve took a sip of her wine and let it linger on her tongue. She was tired and drained of all her emotions. She wanted to take a shower, to be surrounded by the comforting glow of her cedar-panelled walls. To be red and gold incarnate under hot water and steam.
She ran a hand through her hair and sighed again. She thought about the shower. She thought about Oksana and Elena and Konstantin. She looked at her wine.
She hauled herself off the couch and made for the bathroom. When she stepped into the shower, naked from head to toe, she clutched at her wine glass and brought it along with her, because why the fuck not?
The next week passed like a sputtering vehicle, stalling and lurching along without much hope of getting anywhere. Eve’s head was a mess, only a different kind of mess than before. Now she had information and facts and the relief of telling someone at least a little bit about what had been going on. Now she thought about Oksana’s life; her past, her job, her desire to leave the shady organization that Konstantin had refused to give more details about.
Some days passed quickly. Eve was so lost in her thoughts as she harvested vegetables or fed Molly that the hours flew by like seconds. Other days ran like molasses in January; crawling by, torturously slow. Those days happened when Eve’s thoughts turned to Oksana in the present; where was she, what was she doing, and was she safe? Anxiety knotted in her gut and she felt crippled by her powerlessness to do anything about it.
Those days she didn’t get much done at all.
The third week without Oksana was better in some ways, worse in others. Eve felt good, on the good days, because she was coming to accept all the things that she knew. Oksana was an assassin. She was an asshole. She’d had a hard childhood. She was capable of good. She was funny, if brusque, and strong, too.
It helped, Eve thought, to repeat these things to herself. She wove the threads of Oksana into a pattern in her head; who knew if it was accurate, really, but it was all she had.
The worrying still gnawed at her. She wondered, in the back of her mind, if she would ever live without worrying again. Would she be doomed to think about Oksana, to wonder about her safety, for the rest of her days?
What if she never came back?
And it didn’t have to mean she’d been killed, although, given her line of work, it was alarmingly possible. But maybe Eve had been wrong about her, or maybe Konstantin had been wrong when he’d said Eve had been different. Maybe Oksana fled the UK and found herself back in Paris and discovered a new woman to annoy beyond reason. To charm and to entice and to tease and...
So, the third week was better in some ways. Worse in others.
Molly hardly looked different as the weeks went by, but that was nothing to be concerned about. She wouldn’t really show until 4 or 5 months, and then Eve would be able to tell how many kids she was having. She would be due in mid-November and the weather would be turning cold and damp by then. Eve would probably call Tom over for the birth. She could use the extra set of hands.
The TV gathered dust. Eve hadn’t turned it on since Oksana had left. She wasn’t sure what she’d watch anyway. One more week went by before she caved, though, and decided to watch something by herself.
It was a dark and cloudy evening. A storm looked to be approaching from the sea, dark clouds forming anvils in the distance, spread out along the sky like an approaching wave. It would probably hit overnight. With a glass of wine in her hand, Eve eyed the pile of VHS movies dubiously, unsure if it was really a good idea, before bending down and reaching for the one that caught her eye: Thelma and Louise.
It was almost definitely a bad idea, something guaranteed to make her an emotional mess, but Eve had never been known for impulse control. She pulled the tape from its flimsy cardboard sleeve and popped it into the VCR. Then she collapsed on the couch and waited for the movie to play.
It made her sadder, this time, than it had before. She didn’t have Oksana’s witty remarks or teasing eyes or unspoiled excitement. She watched with an odd combination of resignation and envy as the two heroines set off on their downward spiral. Eve took a big gulp of wine. Oksana would’ve chastised her, had she been there, for chugging it like some college student.
Eve watched as Thelma, in particular, left her old life behind and became more unhinged, more willing to damn it all to hell just to run away a little further.
The Thunderbird sped down the empty highway. It was quiet, for a moment, and then,
“I feel awake. Wide awake.”
Thelma was speaking to Louise, of course, but still, Eve perked up.
“I don't remember ever feelin' this awake. Everything looks different. You know what I mean. I know you know what I mean. Everything looks new.”
Eve sat up on the couch. She leaned forward and stared at the screen.
“Do you feel like that? Like you've got something to look forward to?”
Louise was quiet. Eve breathed out a shallow, “Yes.”
Because that was the truth of it. She did have something to look forward to if Oksana ever came back. It didn't have to mean anything grand, just the opportunity to see her face one more time.
Eve was becoming quite the romantic. She shook her head to herself, feeling foolish.
A few seconds later, Louise replied, “We'll be drinkin' margaritas by the sea, Mamasita.”
Thelma nodded. “We can change our names.”
Eve smiled sadly. It was a nice fantasy, but it couldn’t last. Not for them, not for her.
She sighed and fell back into the couch.
The movie ended a short while later, and Eve had fought hard not to let any tears escape at its ending. It didn’t matter how many times she’d seen it, how many times she’d watched that car launch off the cliff’s edge, it would always pull at her in a way she didn’t understand.
The wind began to pick up, howling against the house. And then it occurred to her.
Maybe it was because she was there, on her couch. Maybe she needed to feel that danger for real. To feel it tug at her, to feel the cliff beneath her feet. Maybe it was time to step a little closer to the edge. Within four or five steps. Maybe within two.
Eve set her wine glass down on the table and pushed up from the couch. She went off to find her jacket, determination in her stride.
In the distance, thunder rolled, untamed and enticing.
this chapter is not how i originally planned it but i hope y'all can hang on just a little while longer, i promise your patience will be rewarded.
Chapter 15: At The Cliff's Edge
im sorry its a few days late guys. i found it really hard to write this chapter for whatever reason and honestly want to set it on fire but hey, what can ya do
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Wind lashed at Eve as she descended the stairs of her front porch. Her hair whipped around her wildly as she pulled her jacket tight, hardly bothering to zip it up in her determined rush to leave the house. Ahead of her, green grass rolled like waves, pushed nearly horizontal by the storm, and in the distance she could see the ocean roiling. Waves the colour of raw sapphire and smoke rose and fell along the horizon. The sound of them crashing against the cliffside below made a sonorous kind of rumble, something deep and low and calming, even in the gathering storm.
Between the rippling grass and the thundering waves lay the edge of the cliffs. Eve’s goal, and she marched towards them against the wind with a fierce determination. She felt…
She thought of Thelma. Wide awake.
None of it made sense to her, really, but it felt important somehow, and so she continued forwards. When she made it to her usual point along the cliff’s edge, she stopped. The ground dropped off further ahead of her but there was still room to inch closer.
Eve looked at her feet, then up at the edge. She took a deep breath and moved forwards.
It didn’t feel quite as exhilarating as she’d thought it would, if she was being honest. She frowned and began to feel rain spitting down on her. She took another step forward. Again, no grand revelations. No epiphanies. Maybe she wasn’t going far enough.
She took another step. The dropoff was now less than five steps away. She sighed and looked up at the clouds, dark and billowing in the wind, looming over her.
“I thought I knew what I was doing out here, but I don’t.” She looked back out to the ocean. “Bill, what am I doing?”
Her only answer was the sounds of the storm. The wind and the waves. And then,
“I wish you wouldn’t do that.”
It was low and dulcet and lilting Russian. It was all Eve had wanted to hear for weeks. She shuddered.
“Great, now I’m hearing things.” She turned as she said it, back towards the homestead, and froze.
Oksana stood amongst the quivering grass. She looked… exactly the same. Eve had wondered if she might look older, or maybe tired and weary. But no, Oksana stood there, staring at Eve, and she looked exactly the same.
She was wearing a black bomber jacket over a plain shirt, with tight black pants and sneakers. It was… not at all how Eve had imagined seeing her. Her hair was up in a bun, and Eve let her eyes roam over Oksana’s face freely.
There was a beat of silence, and then,
Eve thought she might let out a laugh, albeit a fractured kind. “Hi.” It came out breathless.
“What are you doing?”
It was absurd that this was what they were going to talk about, after all, Eve had learned in the past weeks. “Stepping closer to the edge.”
Oksana cocked her head. “That’s a bit dangerous.”
“Yes.” Eve stared at her, and she felt the relief at seeing Oksana quickly begin to dissipate. What right did she have to suggest that something was dangerous , given her own career choices?
“Why would you want to do that?”
Eve ignored her. “Where have you been?”
“You know I was worried about you?”
Oksana raised an eyebrow. “Were you?”
The way she said it. That flippant attitude, that unreserved snarkiness. Eve had missed it. But she didn’t want it like this, right now. The dam holding her emotions burst as the rain began to fall harder around them.
“Yes!” Eve shouted. “Yes! You just left. Right after I learned-”
“-Learned about what I do. Who I am, hm?”
Eve frowned. “I don’t care about any of that- well, I care , but it doesn’t change how- I was so worried about you!”
Eve felt herself getting increasingly frustrated by the second. It was like she had been so anxious and concerned for weeks that now that she knew Oksana was safe and sound, all the pent up energy was manifesting into irritation. Irritation at her for leaving, for leaving the way she had, and for making Eve feel so worried about her in the first place.
Maybe it was unfair. Eve didn’t really know. Her emotions just took over.
“Jesus, you didn’t even leave me a note or-”
“A real note, you asshole!” Eve threw her arms up. “What the fuck was I supposed to do with ‘sorry, baby’?”
“It was humorous-”
“It was callous,” Eve retorted.
Oksana had the audacity to shrug. “Maybe I am a callous person.”
Eve scoffed. “You’d have to be, doing what you do for a living. But… not with me. You don’t get to do that to me.”
Oksana took a step towards Eve, slow and cautious, as if afraid she might bolt. “So you really don’t mind what I am?”
“What is it you think that you are?”
Oksana shrugged. “A monster.”
Eve huffed. “No, you’re not.”
“Eve, I kill people. And for a long time, I enjoyed it.”
Eve wondered if this was where a different person, maybe a saner person, would run. Instead, she took the opportunity presented. “ Enjoyed . But not anymore?”
It was Oksana’s turn to huff. She waved a hand dismissively. “Semantics.”
“It’s not,” Eve pushed. “Konstantin said you’ve changed.”
Oksana rolled her eyes. “Konstantin is old. He doesn’t know anything.”
Eve felt what little patience she had wearing thin. “Why are you being like this? Why come back if you were only going to… taunt me?”
“I’m not taunting you, Eve.”
“Of course you are!” Eve shouted. “You come back and there’s no explanation, no apology, no recognition for the way you made me feel when you left. You just show up and tell me it’s dangerous to stand near the cliffs-”
“-Because it is-”
“-What do you want from me?!” Eve shouted, exasperation heavy on her tongue.
Oksana frowned, and her show of indifference appeared to waver. “Something I can’t have.”
“Well, what the fuck is that supposed to mean?”
Oksana closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose between her fingers. “I am… not good at this.” She took a deep breath. “I feel things when I am with you, Eve.”
Eve let the words settle over her. They were nice. They were. But…, “That doesn’t mean you get to go and be a dick.”
Oksana huffed. “I told you I am not good at this. What was I supposed to do? Interpol had arrived at your front door, Eve. Would you like to be caught harbouring a criminal? How was I supposed to know how you would react to-” she waves at herself “-all of this.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Eve shot back. “Maybe by telling me it all before Interpol showed up? Maybe opening up a little bit before leaving without a backwards glance.”
“Right. You’re right.” Oksana’s voice turned mocking. “Hello, Eve. So nice of you to let me stay in your home. By the way, I am a hired assassin who kills people for a living and I am currently on the run from the authorities after a murder gone wrong in Rotterdam. Please, can I stay just a few nights?”
Later, Eve would admit that Oksana was probably right. That it would’ve been foolish to open up like that so early on. In that moment, at the cliff’s edge, however, Eve had already dug her heels in too deep to be rational.
“Yeah! Maybe you could’ve done that. You don’t think I would’ve tried to help you somehow, or… or…”
“Or what , Eve?” Oksana frowned at her. “I was being realistic, and you know it. Now, it is not comfortable to be out in this rain. Can we continue this inside?”
Eve felt petulant. Stubborn refusal rose up in her lungs. She shook her head. “I think I’ll stay out here, thanks.”
Oksana stepped towards her until they were only a few steps apart. “You’re being ridiculous, Eve. You’ll catch a cold.”
“No.” Eve inched backwards without thinking, just trying to put space between herself and the younger woman.
“Eve, don’t be foolish. The ground is slippery and unstable. Come on.”
Eve held her ground. “You aren’t the only one who can be stubborn. Or an asshole.”
Oksana rolled her eyes. “Yes, you are being a big asshole right now. So. You win. Come on.”
Eve held her chin up defiantly. “Why did you come back?”
Oksana met her gaze. “You know why.”
“Eve, let’s talk inside.”
“Why did you come back? Tell me. I need to hear you say something that isn’t cocky bullshit. I need to hear you say-”
The ground seemed to groan beneath Eve’s feet, and then shift, and then lurch. It felt like the kind of ride at an amusement park that held you suspended in the air before dropping you lightning-quick towards the ground. Eve’s stomach felt gravity shift.
Oksana’s eyes widened. “Eve!”
She launched forwards and locked a hand tightly around Eve’s wrist, yanking her back from the edge as the ground threatened to crumble, a large section of the cliff face breaking and sliding down, down towards the ocean, 500 feet below. Oksana tugged at Eve hard until she crashed into the assassin’s chest. They fell backwards onto solid ground, wet and mucky from rain and dirt, but otherwise unscathed.
It took a few moments for either of them to catch their breath. They lay on the wet ground, the rain making messes of them both. Thunder rumbled nearby, and Eve panted where she lay, half pressed against Oksana as she caught her breath. It lasted a moment, and then Oksana rolled away and sat up. Eve looked up at her.
“You just saved my life.”
“Yes, well. Don’t stand so close to the edge next time.”
“You must like me.” Eve didn’t know what possessed her to say it. She was going to give herself whiplash at this rate.
Oksana rolled her eyes and pushed herself to her feet. “Just because I am callous doesn’t mean I would let you die.”
Eve frowned. Maybe it was the adrenaline of having nearly plummeted to her death. Maybe it was the relief at seeing Oksana, buried underneath the frustration. Maybe it was just the desire to capitulate, after all, and let someone back in. “I’m sorry I said you were callous.”
Oksana looked down at Eve, still laying in the soaking wet grass. She raised an eyebrow and then said, “Well, you are not wrong. It was kind of a dumb note.”
From her place in the grass, Eve barked out a harsh laugh. “It was.”
“Are you going to lay there all night?”
Eve glared at Oksana, but only half-heartedly. She pushed herself up onto her elbows, and when Oksana offered her a hand, she took it. She felt herself lifted up to her feet and then she looked at the other woman levelly. “This conversation isn’t over just because you saved my life.”
“It’s not too late for me to push you off those cliffs,” Oksana replied, but Eve had already turned away from her and started walking deliberately towards the homestead. If she stumbled a little as she went, thinking about the ground falling away beneath her, she trusted Oksana wouldn’t mention it.
Once they were back inside the house, Eve threw some dry clothes towards Oksana before retreating to her bedroom to change. When they were both changed, they wordlessly moved to the kitchen and Oksana took a seat at the wooden table. Eve leaned back against the counter.
“So,” she began.
Oksana stared up at her. Eve found herself at a loss for words, suddenly. Emotions were a fickle thing, and she’d burned through their reserve strong and fast at the cliff’s edge. Now she was drained.
Unsurprisingly, Oksana didn’t offer her anything either in the way of conversation. Stubborn and willful, but Eve found that she didn’t mind. Not really. She could see it now, this defense mechanism that the other woman hid behind.
Push them away first and no one can leave you.
Eve sighed and let her head roll back limply. “God, I’m tired.”
And then she came to a decision. Maybe not her wisest, but wisdom be damned. Wisdom and rationality. She pushed off the counter. “We can talk in the morning. I’m going to bed.”
If Oksana was surprised by the abruptness of it, she didn’t show it. She gave a small nod and pushed her chair back from the table, getting up and making to follow Eve as she passed the living room on her way to the bedroom.
As Eve approached her bedroom door she turned and looked at Oksana over her shoulder. The younger woman was watching her as she began to angle towards the couch.
“Don’t,” Eve told her. Oksana stopped midstep.
Eve was still looking back at her as she crossed the threshold into her bedroom. Then she walked over to one side of the bed, turned on a lamp, and threw the covers back. The door remained open.
It could not have been a clearer invitation.
Still, it was endearing the way, a few seconds later, Oksana hovered outside the entryway, clearly waiting for verbal permission to enter. Eve refused to give it. She just climbed into bed, quirked an eyebrow at the young woman, and pulled the covers over herself.
Oksana cocked her head. Eve thought there might have been the ghost of a smile painted on her lips. Then, she walked forwards into the bedroom and reached for the door. She clicked it shut behind her, staring at Eve all the while. “This is new.” She meant it to be teasing, but Eve could hear the tension in her voice.
Eve watched her as Oksana pushed away from the door and walked slowly towards the bed. She hovered at the edge, unsure of whether she really should climb in. “What do you want me to do?”
Eve shrugged her shoulders under the covers. She was too tired to play games. They would talk in the morning. They would be serious in the morning. For now, she just wanted sleep and Oksana by her side.
She wasn’t sure she would ever let her out of sight again.
“Sleep,” Eve commanded.
Oksana lowered herself gingerly into the bed. “Weren’t you just mad at me?”
Eve couldn’t find it in herself to so much as roll her eyes. “Shut up,” she murmured, letting herself get sleepier by the second. “Shut up and just sleep.”
“Okay, Eve,” came the reply, and then Oksana reached for the covers and pulled them over herself tentatively. “I will try my best to sleep in your bed.”
Eve had the energy to mutter one final, “Shut up,” before exhaustion took over and she drifted off to sleep.
did y'all think they were gonna make out at the cliffs? me too. clowned myself.
Chapter 16: Workarounds
the comments you guys left on chapter 15 really made my entire week. thank you all so much for all the support for this fic, even at the times when im unhappy or struggling with it. y'alls positivity is truly a blessing.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Sunlight painted a rose and gold mosaic on the wall of Eve’s bedroom. The worst of the storm had rolled in long after she’d been asleep, hurling rain against her window and cracking thunder above her head, but Eve had remained unconscious through it all. Now, though, she was stirring. Slow and sleepy, and when she cracked an eye open she found herself facing the windows, the early light of day meeting her gaze.
And it was certainly early. The sun rose just before 5 am in the early summertime, and it peeked above the horizon as Eve regarded it blearily. She’d slept deeply. She felt better rested than she had in weeks, although her brain was slow to piece together why that may have been.
She heard a stirring from behind her, a soft exhale and the sound of rustling sheets, and everything snapped back like a whip cracking in midair. Cliffs and Oksana and rain. A feeling of being awake for the first time in a long time. Eve rolled over in bed and turned to face the woman beside her.
Oksana had been facing Eve’s back before she had rolled over. She was a respectful distance away, practically at the edge of the bed. For herself, Eve had slept nearly to the edge of her own side as well. They were almost as far apart as could be, although rolling over had brought them closer together.
Eve stared at the face of the woman sleeping next to her, or apparently sleeping. Oksana asleep was hardly different from Oksana awake; beautiful and strong and inaccessible, somehow. But where Oksana awake was a show of force, in unconsciousness that harshness slipped away and she slept with a liberty reserved for felons walking out of their prison’s gates. Errantly, Eve wondered what she might be dreaming about.
Whether by the light of the rising sun or the weight of Eve’s stare, Oksana awoke not long afterwards. She scrunched her eyes tight before opening them wide and Eve had the impression that there was never a moment when this woman could be truly caught off guard.
They stared at each other for a few moments, until Eve broke the silence.
“Morning.” It came out thick and sleepy and bordering on an intimacy too deep for two people who hadn’t seen each other in weeks. Who’d never shared a kiss, let alone a bed. Eve tried to ignore the sound of her own voice.
“Mmm,” Oksana hummed in response, low and throaty and far too comfortable. “Morning.”
“Did you, uh… sleep good?” Eve stumbled.
“Sleep well, Eve. Did I sleep well? Yes, I did, thank you.”
The snarky yet soft delivery of it cut the tension within herself and Eve couldn’t help a small smile as she muttered under her breath, “Dick.”
For a moment, Oksana looked like she might reciprocate with a question of her own, asking Eve how she slept or what dreams she might’ve had. Instead, though, she tucked her chin beneath the covers that were pulled snug around herself. It made her look young, younger, and Eve felt a protectiveness flare in her chest. She thought about stamping it out but she couldn’t bring herself to care. It was nearly 5 in the morning; too early to concern herself with analyzing her own emotions.
Silence resumed as they lay across from each other in Eve’s bed. It lasted several minutes as they took turns making and breaking eye contact until Eve finally heard herself say, “Why did you come back?”
Oksana furrowed her brow and pursed her lips a bit before she spoke. “I wanted to see you again.”
It was simple. Too easy an answer for it to absolve her of any wrongdoings, and yet Eve couldn’t find it in herself to feel upset. Her chest filled with a pleasant warmth and her heart felt strangely full.
She thought about making some wisecrack remark or sincere comment in return, but instead, Eve found her old, insatiable curiosity rearing up once again. “How did you lose them?”
“Interpol,” Eve replied as if it were obvious.
“Oh, them.” Oksana shrugged. “They were not that bad. Once I had led a trail through Portugal, Spain, and Italy, I dropped off the grid entirely and circled back here.”
“That’s very vague.”
“That’s for the best,” Oksana told her matter-of-factly. Eve decided not to push further on that topic, but some things still needed to be discussed.
She sighed and then voiced what she’d already been thinking. “You can’t stay, can you?”
“No.” Oksana didn’t break their eye contact. She respected Eve too much for it. “I cannot stay. There are things I have to… conclude.”
Eve decided she would address the issue of Oksana leaving again later. She kept on with her other concerns. “Konstantin said you want to retire.”
Oksana looked upwards, somewhere above Eve’s head. Maybe at the bedframe. Then she looked back to Eve. “Yes, I would like to quit my job.”
Eve watched the other woman’s eyes. “Just like that?”
Oksana shook her head slightly. “No, it has been a long time coming. Since…”
“Since Gryzmet?” Eve asked gently. Oksana raised an eyebrow in response and Eve shrugged beneath the covers. “Konstantin told me a bit.”
The other woman nodded. “Ok, then yes, since Gryzmet. He told you about my family?” Eve nodded. Oksana huffed and Eve felt it against her face, even with the distance between them. Warm. Resigned. “He should not have done that?” She phrased it like a question. “I just… well. What do you think?”
It surprised Eve that she was asking for her opinion. Surprised her, but also thrilled her. It was something a friend would do, or a partner. It spoke to a change in their dynamic. Precipitated by what, exactly, Eve wasn’t sure. The time apart, the return, the cliffs, the bed, maybe? It didn’t really matter, she supposed, so long as things were changing for the better.
“I think that what happened between you and your family is your business. From what I know of it, your mother might have had it coming. It doesn’t change how I feel about you.”
The words were out of her mouth before Eve really thought to stop them, but then she felt the loss of them from her tongue. Things that had been removed from their proper storage space, hidden inside, that should never have been relocated. But they were out in the open, now, on display.
Oksana stared at Eve levelly. “And how do you feel about me, Eve?” Her voice was steady, her eyes lingering heavy on Eve’s.
Eve paused, and then, “I care about you.” It wasn’t that hard to say, really. She’d said it before. It was a workaround, though; something close but not quite the truth. A way to avoid what she didn’t know how to say. Eve held her breath.
Oksana was silent a moment before she replied, “I care about you too, Eve.” More silence, and then, “I think I am going to sleep more.”
It was so abrupt that it caught Eve off guard. She furrowed her brow in confusion but didn’t argue. What could she argue, really? “Oh...kay.”
“Okay. Sleep tight.” Oksana shut her eyes, suddenly, leaving Eve just like that.
Eve lay there for a few moments, unsure how to proceed. She sighed. Just when it seemed they were making progress, somehow, something always seemed to throw them off track.
Eve made to roll over but she paused halfway through, hovering awkwardly, propped up on one elbow.
“Why did you come back?”
“I wanted to see you again.”
They were fluent in workarounds, it seemed.
“You can’t stay, can you?”
“No. I cannot stay.”
Eve lowered herself back onto her side, facing Oksana. She had spent weeks without her, worrying about her, and now that she was back… what did she want, really? She looked at the other woman, sleeping, or pretending to. She let her eyes roam along her forehead and eyebrows, down the slope of her nose and across her cheekbones. Her gaze settled on the younger woman’s lips.
Eve thought about the last time they’d seen each other before Oksana had left. How she’d been about to kiss her. How she’d lamented that she hadn’t been able to, later on, when she was alone and without her.
“I cannot stay.”
This wasn't the time, Eve decided, for evasions. For almost-truths.
The younger woman opened her eyes slowly. Eve doubted she’d even fallen asleep in that short time. It was quiet. Eve snaked an arm out of the covers and reached across the gap between them. She let her fingers rest along Oksana’s cheek lightly, before threading them back towards her ear, her hairline. Oksana's eyes never left Eve’s. Eve felt emboldened under that gaze. She pressed forward and closed the distance between them, and let her eyes drift shut as she felt Oksana’s lips against hers.
Eve kissed her in a soft, barely-there kind of way. Tentative and cautious. Eve pulled back a moment later, nervousness fluttering in her chest. Maybe she’d read the entire thing wrong.
Then she heard Oksana’s breath, a shaky exhale escaping from her lips, and she knew it hadn’t been a mistake at all. Eve kissed her again.
It was not the kiss she had expected it would be. Where she had imagined roughness, it was soft. Where she had pictured intensity, it was composed. She moved her lips against Oksana’s and felt a calm not unlike being underwater. Her fingers traced the shell of Oksana’s ear, and the younger woman sighed against her lips in appreciation.
Eventually, Oksana pulled away slightly. Her eyes were on Eve’s lips when she said, “You are a very good kisser, Eve, for someone who has been living alone with a goat for so long.”
Eve was stunned for a moment, lips tingling from their kiss. Then she registered the jibe and clicked her tongue in irritation before flicking Oksana’s ear. “Brat.”
“Mmm,” the blonde hummed, unfazed, as she wound an arm out from beneath the covers and placed her hand behind Eve’s neck. “Very bratty, it is a shame you like me.” She pulled Eve towards her again and Eve was powerless to resist her.
They stayed like that a while, trading gentle kisses in the early morning glow. It was silent except for their breathing and the rasp of sheets as they moved around slowly in the bed. They kissed like two lovers reunited after a long time apart, whose bodies fell into old rhythms with practiced ease. It came naturally to Eve, the desire to trace her fingers along Oksana’s jaw or to press soft kisses along the corners of her mouth. She ran the risk of dipping her fingers lower, making her kisses heavier, if they continued much longer.
And then came the unmistakable sound of a bleating goat.
Eve felt herself being pushed gently but firmly away from her position half-hovering over Oksana. She had a moment to roll her eyes in exasperation before Oksana demanded, “Is that Molly?”
“Yes,” Eve huffed, still catching her breath from kissing and then abruptly not-kissing. “Who else would it be?” she added sarcastically.
“Maybe you replaced her in my absence.”
Eve rolled her eyes again. “Right.”
Another long, shrill bleat came from outside.
Oksana began to untangle herself from the covers. “She needs me.”
“Oh my god.”
“Listen to her, Eve, she is in distress.”
“She’s pregnant! She’s going to be in distress for another four months.” Eve rolled onto her back and watched as Oksana continued to pull herself from the bed. “Are you seriously leaving me right now? After… this.” She wasn’t sure how to define what they were doing. This seemed like a good place to start.
Oksana paused once she’d stood up and then turned to face Eve. She was in one of Eve’s oversized sweaters and a pair of shorts. Her bun from the night before was messy and unravelling. Eve wanted nothing more than to pull her back into bed. She wondered if that sort of thing was allowed, in a ‘ this’ kind of situation.
Oksana leaned across the bed nimbly, placing one leg on the mattress to steady herself as she moved overtop of Eve. “I’m not leaving you. I’m coming back.”
Eve’s breath caught in her throat. Oksana leaned down and kissed her once, gently, before she pulled back and made for the bedroom door.
“And do not make coffee, Eve. I will do it when I come back inside.”
It should have needled her a bit, the remark, but Eve let it go. She was too full of… something in her chest. Warmth and admiration and endearment. She let her head fall back against the pillows and sighed, content.
Oksana plodded through the backyard towards Molly’s pen. She was wearing a pair of Eve’s cumbersome hiking boots, thrown on because they were easily accessible and she didn’t much feel like getting mud all over her own white sneakers.
The mud was offensive. It squelched against the soles of the boots and made a disgusting kind of pop when she pulled her foot out again. The overnight storm had turned the hard-packed dirt into a wet and squishy obstacle course. She worked hard to avoid rain and mud puddles alike. The mud puddles were dangerous, of course. Step into one of those and she might sink so deep that the mud stole the boot right off of her foot. Clouds still blanketed the sky overhead, the sun having risen enough to be swallowed up by them once more. It didn't look stormy, just grey and dreary. The mud would not be drying up anytime soon.
Molly bleated from the pen, encouraging Oksana as she picked her way across the yard. When she finally made it to the gate, she opened the latch and let herself in, only to find Molly’s pen nearly as muddy. The goat stood a little ways away, where the muddy ground turned to grass in one section of the pen. She chewed enthusiastically on the grass she was eating before letting out a cheerful bleat.
“Are you going to come to me or do I have to come to you?”
Molly stood her ground. “Beehh.”
Oksana sighed and continued on through the mud until she reached the grass. Molly plodded closer to her and Oksana knelt down to scratch at her chin.
“I can’t believe you live like this.”
Molly bleated loudly in her face.
“I missed you too, sweet Molls,” Oksana replied, scratching at her chin and ears. “How is your pregnancy going?” She tilted her head to try to get a view of Molly’s belly. “You do not look very pregnant.”
Molly knocked her head against Oksana’s hand and tittered forwards, presenting her neck and back.
“You want me to scratch your back?” Oksana asked. Molly didn’t move for a moment, snorting when Oksana hesitated. “Alright, alright. You are becoming very demanding in your early motherhood.”
Oksana began scratching at the goat’s back. Molly bleated happily.
“You know, Molly, I hope you are a good mother to your kids. Bad mothers and I do not get along. If you are bad, I may have to kill you.”
Molly turned and stared at Oksana with her rectangular eyes. She huffed.
“Okay, I won’t do that,” Oksana admitted after a moment. “You are too cute. But I will not be your friend anymore.”
The goat bent forwards and chewed at a tuft of grass. Oksana let her hand drop from scratching at her back. Molly’s head came up as soon as she did and she bleated indignantly around a mouthful of grass.
“What? You want-” Oksana brought her hand back to Molly’s back. Molly started chewing happily. “You really are becoming a brat, you know.”
“It’s the progesterone.”
Oksana spun her head around to see Eve leaning over the railing of the pen. She was dressed for the day in sweatpants and a loose-fitting black v-neck. She wore a pair of hiking boots. She clearly owned several. Her hair was loose and wild and, seeing her dressed like that, casual and relaxed, Oksana found she couldn't remember a word she'd said. "What?”
“The progesterone,” Eve offered, smiling softly. “Pregnancy hormone. It changes her behaviour a bit. It’s why she seems more demanding for your attention. It’s because she likes you.”
Oksana turned back to the goat. “You like me, hey? There’s a lot of that going around.” She made sure it was loud enough for Eve to hear. She was rewarded with a low chuckle.
“Me, she doesn’t like as much. Usually, she’s lukewarm with me, now she hardly wants to see me.”
Oksana tutted disapprovingly as she scratched behind Molly’s ear. “Molls, that’s not very polite of you. But it’s okay, I know it’s just because I’m your favourite.”
“No,” Eve spoke up, amusement in her voice. “It’s definitely the progesterone.”
Molly bleated loudly.
“I don’t know what that means, Molly.” Oksana gave her another loving scratch before she stood up and turned to face Eve. “You want me to make you coffee?”
Eve smiled. “Yes, please. It’s what I’m keeping you around for, isn’t it?”
Oksana meandered over to the fence and put her arms on the railing on either side of Eve. “Yes,” she breathed. “My coffee-making is my only redeeming quality.”
“Hmm,” Eve hummed, eyes trained on Oksana’s lips as the younger woman began to close the distance between them.
Before she could, she yelped in surprise. Eve pulled back and looked around wide-eyed, thinking maybe Interpol had found them again. Instead, she watched as Oksana rubbed the side of her thigh and stared daggers at Molly, who had waddled up next to her.
“She bit me!” Oksana cried.
Eve burst out laughing. “Oh, she did not! She was biting at your shorts.”
“Well,” Oksana huffed, still rubbing her thigh. “She got a bit of me too.”
“She just wants your attention,” Eve explained between chuckles.
“Yes, well, there are more polite ways to go about getting a woman’s attention, Molly.”
“Mm,” Eve hummed as she leaned across the railing and fisted her hand in Oksana’s borrowed sweater. “Like this?”
She tugged and felt Oksana pitch forwards. Eve caught her lips in a kiss, still gentle but also laced with something more than the others. More desire, more want. Eve felt Oksana’s mouth open against her, hot breath on her lips as she reacted to the surprise of the kiss. Then her hands came up to Eve’s hair and she sighed heavily against Eve’s mouth.
Molly snorted softly from somewhere beside them. Eve pulled back but kept a hand wrapped in the sweater. “I think we should go inside before Molly bites you again.”
“I think you are right,” Oksana replied, nodding dazedly, only half focused on the words coming out of Eve’s mouth.
“And then you can make me the coffee you promised me.”
Oksana huffed. “Yes, yes, your coffee.”
She untangled herself from Eve as Eve loosened her grip, and then she climbed over the railing of the pen. Eve watched her pale legs flex nimbly as she did so. It was a testament to her attraction to the woman that she found it so sexy despite the comical short-shorts and hiking boots aesthetic.
“I think we should get you some of your own clothes, eventually.” The words slipped out easily, her tone light and teasing. It could easily turn into a more serious conversation, about them and their future and the reality of Oksana’s leaving. Eve still didn’t know when she would leave again, only that she would. But she forced herself not to dwell on it.
“Hm, I’m not so sure,” Oksana replied, staring down at her legs. “I look very good like this, Eve. Why you would want me to wear something else, I have no idea.”
Eve rolled her eyes and began walking back towards the house, Oksana at her side. “Well, for starters, we could get you your own boots.”
Oksana splashed in a mud puddle and then looked down at her feet. “These are disgustingly practical.” She waved a foot in the air. Eve wasn’t sure if she was complimenting the boots or complaining about them.
From behind them, Molly bleated loudly in the pen.
“She is very talkative in the mornings,” Oksana commented. “I do not remember her being this loud.”
“It’s the progest-”
“The progesterone, yes, yes.” Oksana waved a hand dismissively.
“Also,” Eve began as they made it to the backdoor of the house. “She is happy to see you.” She grabbed the door handle and swung it open for Oksana to go through.
“Good, because I missed her,” Oksana replied, hovering in the doorway and looking at Eve meaningfully.
They were fluent in workarounds, and sometimes that was okay. Some things needed to be said and done; a kiss, for example, that couldn't wait any longer. Other things... well. Even the threat of Oksana leaving couldn't make two stubborn people move faster than they were ready for. They were in a strange kind of limbo, but they were in it together.
“She missed you too,” Eve replied easily. They both knew what she meant. “Now please, for the love of God, make me that coffee.”
hope y'all enjoyed the Oksolly reunion (dont @ me unless you have a better brotp name for them)
Chapter 17: Slow
for everyone patiently waiting for pt2 of my other fic I swear its on its way <3
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Oksana made coffee while Eve made them breakfast. It was as domestic as anything they’d ever done, only this time it came after a night spent sleeping side by side and a morning spent wrapped in each other’s arms and kissing each other’s lips. Eve could feel the other woman’s gaze lingering on her as she floated around the kitchen. Out of the corner of her eye she caught sight of Oksana pouring coffee beans into the grinder.
“You are almost out,” the blonde offered without looking her way.
“We can-” Eve caught herself. She didn’t know if Oksana would be staying long enough for there to be much of a ‘we’ for anything. “I can run into town and pick some up soon.”
“Mm,” Oksana hummed absently. “At my apartment in Paris, I had a French press.”
Eve turned to face her and shot her a look. “Has anyone ever told you that, between the fancy clothes and the Parisien lifestyle, you can come across a bit pretentious?” she asked teasingly.
“Eve, please, the word you are looking for is ‘sophisticated’.”
“Right.” Eve turned back to the counter and reached for a cutting board. She was going to be chopping vegetables for frittata, once she found a knife. She was feeling a bit scatterbrained, from almost dying the night before to kissing Oksana to remembering that Oksana might be leaving any minute. She shook her head and tried to focus on cooking.
If she stopped focusing on one thing she might start thinking of several others. Thinking about sunrise and soft lips and ‘I cannot stay’.
I cannot stay.
Eve turned from the counter to reach for a knife. Unbeknownst to her, Oksana hovered behind her, and she collided into her chest as she spun.
“Be careful, Eve,” Oksana chastised her lightly, teasingly, as she brought her arms around Eve’s waist.
Eve let out a soft laugh that sounded more like a shaky breath. Her brazenness from the morning in bed and the backyard had seemingly evaporated. Instead, she felt a nervousness rising in her throat. Words tumbled from her lips. “We should slow down.”
Oksana cocked her head and raised an eyebrow at her. “I was not aware that we were moving very fast.”
Eve huffed. “I just mean… because you’re leaving. I don’t want to…” She trailed off, unsure exactly of what she didn’t want to do.
In the short time between waking up, visiting Molly, and entering the kitchen, she had thought of several things she wanted to do very much. Things motivated by the fact that now she knew exactly what Oksana’s lips felt like. She’d been wondering, in the back of her mind, for much longer than she would ever admit. Now that she knew, she couldn’t help but want more.
She pushed those thoughts from her mind, relegating them to a dark corner to join the other things she didn’t want to think about at that moment.
“You don’t want to have sex with me,” Oksana finished for her, blunt as ever.
Eve floundered under the directness of it. “That’s not- I didn’t say-”
“It’s okay, Eve,” Oksana’s hands on her waist moved in gentle strokes along her sides. It was an attempt to reassure her, and it made Eve’s heart melt. “We don’t have to have sex-”
Eve tried to ignore the certainty in the younger woman’s tone. It was aggravating and more than a little arousing. To have it so blatantly implied that she was wanted like that. Eve suppressed a shiver.
“Look,” she tried to make her voice sound more assertive than she felt. “I just don’t want to- it’s not easy, you know- and I-” It was a jumbled mess, made worse by the fact that Oksana was patiently waiting for her to get the words out. Eve gave up and frowned at her. “Shut up and let me make frittata.”
“I have said nothing.”
“Shut up anyway.”
“Hm,” Oksana hummed, unfazed. She leaned forward and pressed her lips to Eve’s cheek. “I was so right, when we first met, you know. You are a feisty one.”
Eve rolled her eyes as Oksana pulled away and loosened her grip on her waist. She was glad the other woman couldn’t feel her quickened pulse or the flush of warmth in her chest. She ignored her own body’s reaction and turned to find the knife.
It was a minute or two before she thought to address Oksana’s blatant promise of sex.
“You seem pretty confident I’m going to sleep with you.” Eve turned from the cutting board to face the other woman where she had taken a seat at the table while waiting for the coffee to brew.
Oksana didn’t respond, she simply arched an eyebrow and made a lazy gesture with her hand as if to say, ‘have you seen me?’. Eve rolled her eyes in response. “You ass.” Oksana shrugged and smirked at her, and Eve turned back towards the counter again.
When the coffee was done a short while later, Eve heard Oksana’s chair scrape against the floor as she got up to pour them each a mug.
“You can just leave it there, I’ll grab it when I’m-”
She felt fingertips pushing her hair aside and then soft lips pressing against the back of her neck. Her words died on her tongue. Oksana’s lips stayed planted for a few seconds, her nose nudging at the baby hairs at the base of Eve’s skull. Then she felt Oksana pull back.
“Here’s your coffee,” she whispered, her voice low and throaty as she reached around Eve and put a mug down near the cutting board. Her breath tickled Eve’s ear. “You know, I have been attracted to you since I woke up on your living room floor. You have-” Eve felt Oksana’s free hand run through her hair, “-this amazing hair.”
Eve swallowed hard. She realized, at that moment, that she had never been exposed to the full force of Oksana’s flirting. Every time before, it had been cautious and calculated with the aim of getting a rise out of her. Now that Eve had opened the floodgates with their kiss… well, it seemed Oksana was intent on taking full advantage of their new dynamic.
Except that the floodgates were not open. Eve had just said that they were not.
“Slow,” Eve choked out. She cleared her throat. “I said let’s take things-”
“Slow, I know,” Oksana hummed, pressing another kiss below Eve’s ear. “But I cannot help it if you are a very attractive woman, Eve.”
Eve closed her eyes and found her willpower, somewhere, and blew off the dust. “I don’t want to take things further if I’m going to wake up and find you gone.”
Oksana’s lips pulled away from her skin and Eve felt the heat of her body retreat from her back. She was a little worried she may have offended her, but she had said what she’d needed to say. And then she felt hands on her hips, turning her, and then her back was pressed against the kitchen counter. She looked up and saw Oksana regarding her with a heavy stare.
“I wouldn’t do that.”
“I believe you,” Eve assured her, and she really did. But… “But I still want to wait until a time when you aren’t going to be leaving so soon. Maybe you don’t mind quick and dirty but I’d prefer it to be-” She cut herself off before she said too much. “-I’d just prefer to wait.”
She expected Oksana to bristle at her words, at the way she suggested that maybe the younger woman preferred meaningless sex, but to her surprise, Oksana merely nodded slowly. Then, she broke into a cocky grin. “I do not know why you insist on lecturing me about this when you are the one who kissed me first. In bed and in the backyard. Really, Eve, you are the-”
Eve stuck her hand in Oksana’s face, smothering her over her mouth and pushing her head away. “Have I called you an ass yet today?”
Oksana let herself be pushed a step back before she reached an arm up and wrapped her fingers around Eve’s wrist with a strong grip. She forced Eve’s arm down, not that Eve resisted very strongly, before saying, “You are lucky I didn’t break your arm. Assassin reflexes, you know.”
Eve snorted at her. “Care to explain how you fell off the roof then?”
Oksana narrowed her eyes at her. “Wind.”
Eve’s jaw dropped open a bit in surprise at the utter absurdity of it. Then she let out a loud laugh before turning back to continue chopping vegetables. “Wind, right.”
“Mhm,” Eve hummed in amusement, chuckling to herself as she got back to work. She heard Oksana let out an animated huff before she padded off towards some other part of the house, likely to find a book to read. When Eve heard the backdoor open and close a few seconds later, she smiled to herself. She had no fear that Oksana was leaving her, yet. She continued cutting vegetables with a smile on her face.
Eve’s resilience to Oksana’s flirting lasted until the end of the next day. When it had become clear that Oksana wasn’t planning to leave in the immediate 48 hours after their reunion, Eve found it hard to follow her own instructions about taking things slow.
The rest of their first day together had been spent in a pleasant suspension of reality. The sun was shining and so they’d walked down to the cove that housed Eve’s oysters. Eve set out in the canoe to check on the racks, feeling an irrational fondness towards the ninth one, floating lazily in the water. It was the one that had brought her Oksana.
It hadn’t, really, but it didn’t matter. It was now cemented in her mind as such, and she spent extra time surveying the young oysters growing on its rods, checking to make sure there was no lasting damage from the storm months ago and the castaway it had brought her. Eve smiled to herself.
Meanwhile, Oksana had decided to remain on the beach until the heat of the sun warmed her up enough to swim. Eve looked up at the sound of a splash to see the younger woman carving through the gently lapping waves. She’d stripped down to her bra and underwear and Eve was reminded of a time, weeks ago, when she’d struggled on another sunny day not to ogle at the woman’s back. Nothing stopped her now, and when Oksana swam out and paused to catch her breath by gripping at the edge of the canoe, Eve let her eyes trace along the rigid lines of her shoulders.
“Eve, you are staring.”
“Can you blame me?” It came out as a grumble, muttered under her breath, but Oksana’s lips twitched in response and Eve knew she’d been heard.
They spent the night together in Eve’s bed again, kissing less than they had in the morning but their bodies still touching when they both drifted off to sleep. The next day, Eve tried to put her foot down, tried to insist that they stop with the flirting and the kissing and the touching, and while Oksana seemed a bit confused by the suggestion, she nodded and accepted Eve’s request.
“So, I will sleep on the couch tonight then?” She was laying on the couch in question as she asked it.
“I… hadn’t really thought about it,” Eve admitted. “But, I guess that would make sense.”
Oksana had simply nodded before turning her head back to her book. Eve glanced at it and did a double-take. “Is that Jane Austen?”
“Are you enjoying it?”
Oksana closed the book in her hands and shrugged. “Why wouldn’t I?”
“ Pride and Prejudice is nothing like… your life, at all.”
Oksana snorted. “Oh, I did not realize that was a necessary element of literature.
“That’s not what I-”
“Actually,” Oksana continued, cutting her off. “I find Mr. Darcy to be very relatable, Eve.”
“Oh really .”
“Well, yes. The object of his affection thinks he is an asshole. Not to mention she is refusing all of his advances.” Oksana tsked her tongue as she ran her fingers over the cover. “She doesn’t even know what she’s missing…”
“Oh for-” Eve threw her hands up as she turned and stalked out of the room. She heard Oksana’s low chuckle curl against her back as she went.
The final nail in her coffin came later that evening.
“Do you want to watch a movie?” Eve had asked. She was rewarded with a smile that lit up Oksana’s face.
“Yes, of course. What should we watch?”
“You can pick,” Eve told her, grinning in return. It was too easy to pretend that they lived a normal life, after sleeping in the same bed and sharing kisses and cooking together. This would be the last time, she told herself. One last thing for them to do with their new dynamic before Eve laid down some ground rules and put up some boundaries in preparation for the day when Oksana would leave again. That was another thing they should probably hash out. Eve took a deep breath while Oksana sifted through video cassettes on the floor.
“When will you be leaving?” There was no way to make it a casual conversation.
Oksana’s hands stilled but she didn’t look up at Eve. Her hair, down and loose, obscured her face from view. “A few more days, I think.”
The blonde looked up at her. “Is that okay?”
“I can’t really say no,” Eve replied calmly. “You have to go. You have things to conclude, I believe you said.”
Oksana hummed and nodded. “I am going to tender my resignation. That is how you say it, yes?”
Eve couldn’t help the small laugh that escaped her lips. “Yes.”
“‘Tender’,” Oksana let the word roll through her teeth. “It reminds me of meat.”
Eve shrugged. “English.”
Oksana appeared to accept that and went back to searching through the movies. “How about this one?” She held up a cardboard sleeve. Jaws.
“Sure,” Eve shrugged. Oksana knelt forwards and put the tape into the VCR before pushing off of the floor and dropping onto the couch next to Eve. The sun was low on the horizon outside, and, like so many movie nights before, Eve registered that she would be next to Oksana once again, within touching distance, in the dark.
She forced herself to keep her eyes on the screen. She’d done it before, and she could do it again. It wouldn’t occur to her until later that she’d never asked Oksana whether or not she was planning on coming back.
The movie wasn’t holding her attention. It hadn’t right from the start. Oksana was sitting next to her, a responsible two feet away, but Eve could feel every movement of her body, even the smallest twitch, disturbing the air that lay thick between them.
She’d seen Jaws before, enough times to know the story, and yet she had absolutely no idea what was unfolding on-screen. There was the shark again, attacking a boat again, and it was daytime and nighttime and daytime again and Eve had completely lost the plot somewhere between stealing glances at Oksana and reprimanding herself for stealing glances at Oksana.
She’d been a fool to ever think that a dim room and an old movie would take her mind off of the woman next to her, and all her body’s responses to her. If anything, it had only gotten worse. When Oksana shifted on the cushions, Eve couldn’t help but glance her way. When she sighed or hummed at the screen, Eve clenched her fists to resist reaching over and touching her. Oksana had hardly commented on anything the entire time, and that too set Eve on edge. She just sat there, the image of innocence, while Eve felt her stomach tying tighter in knots.
Slow, she reminded herself. There was good reason not to rush, with Oksana leaving in a few day’s time. And yet, everything had already been so slow, or so it felt like it to Eve.
And if this really was going to be one of their last nights together, should she really hold herself back from what she wanted?
And that was its own issue. What did she really want? She didn’t know where to begin on that one. She just wanted something more than sitting chastely on a couch. She wanted to touch and feel and caress. And thinking about how much she wanted it didn’t make things any easier.
Worried that her thoughts were being broadcast across the room, Eve risked a glance in Oksana’s direction. She was met with the woman’s piercing gaze. She’d been looking at her for a while, and she kept on looking, unflinching even as Eve caught her in the act of staring.
And, oh, it was palpable now, the tension in Eve’s gut. It was as if she’d exhaled it out of her lungs and into the space between them, and it was thick and heavy and making her judgement rather clouded. Oksana stared at her like she could read her mind, and Eve let herself think for a split second about the kissing and the touching and-
If this was going to be one of their last nights together...
Eve felt like she was not in control of her body as she pushed herself from her spot on the couch and moved closer to Oksana. She kept her eyes locked on the younger woman’s, neither of them looking away as Eve inched closer to her, like a nervous teenager or, maybe, a prowling lioness. She felt like both, somehow. Anxious and eager for what might come next.
Oksana let Eve come to her, watching her as she went, and when Eve hovered a few inches away from her, she let her gaze drop to Eve’s mouth. Her tongue darted across her lips.
There was a beat of silence, and then,
“Shut up,” Eve whispered.
She didn’t give Oksana the chance to finish. She pitched forward and kissed her, hard and hungry, a caged animal let loose in her chest. She pushed up and slung herself over Oksana, straddling her hips and not stopping to break their kiss. One hand fisted in the blonde’s hair with laser focus, the other fluttered over her jaw and neck and shoulder, unsure of where to hang on to, wanting to touch it all.
Oksana, for her part, met Eve’s kiss eagerly. She tilted her head back, letting Eve set the pace, as Eve enjoyed being taller than the other woman for once.
It took a few moments but eventually, Eve registered what she was doing. She pulled back, breathing hard. A part of her was delighted to see Oksana doing the same.
“Sorry,” Eve gasped out. “Sorry, I… uh.”
“You said you didn’t want to-.”
“I know.” Eve sighed. “Just-” her eyes darted to Oksana’s lips, full and pink. “-forget what I said.”
Eve moved forward to kiss her again. Oksana managed a soft “Eve” before the press of Eve’s lips stopped her from saying anything else.
Eve kissed her needily, forcing the woman beneath her to have to resist sinking into the couch with the weight of it. She bit at Oksana’s lip and felt the woman’s growling response reverberate down her spine and settle between her thighs. She pitched forward, forcing Oksana’s head to tilt back further before taking the opportunity to pull her mouth away from the blonde’s lips and reattach them at the soft skin just below her ear.
“Wow, Eve,” Oksana panted. “You are… making it hard to watch the movie.”
Eve was pressing a kiss along Oksana’s jaw when she said it, but she nipped at her instead and whispered, “Don’t be an asshole.”
She kissed with a confidence she hadn’t known she’d had. Sure, she knew how to be sexy and flirtatious, and sure she’d wanted people before. But this was something else entirely. It stirred something deep within her and stoked the embers burning somewhere below her gut.
She clenched her thighs around Oksana’s. Oksana inhaled sharply before moving one hand down to Eve’s ass. The other trailed over her back, feeling at the fabric of her shirt before ghosting across her hip and coming to rest at the junction of Eve’s hip and thigh. Oksana’s palm pressed into the muscle of Eve’s leg while her thumb traced distracting circles between Eve’s thighs, millimetres away from the centre seam of her pants. Eve felt her breath hitch and her hips grind forward into Oksana’s touch.
“You like that?” Oksana was smirking.
“Yes. You’re touching me, so…” Eve trailed off as she brought her lips from Oksana’s neck up to the woman’s mouth, intending to kiss her again.
Oksana cut her off. “Hardly, really.” She let her thumb ghost over Eve again, pressing only a little harder this time.
Eve grunted. “Then do more.” She didn’t let Oksana respond before kissing her hungrily, but she felt the woman huff against her lips.
The hand that had been resting on Eve’s ass moved up and tangled into her hair, pulling her head back slowly and forcing their kiss to break. Oksana leaned up and pressed her lips to Eve’s throat while pressing three fingers against Eve’s centre over the fabric of her pants. Eve gasped.
Oksana whispered against Eve’s skin. “More, hm?”
Eve shuddered. Oksana pressed once more with her fingers before trailing up to the waistband of Eve’s pants. Eve was glad they were sweatpants, in that moment, since it would make it much easier to-
She let out a shaky breath when she felt Oksana’s fingers dip beneath the fabric and caress the soft skin below her belly. Eve pulled away, forcing the blonde to remove her lips from Eve’s neck, and Eve stared at her for a moment. She was sure her own pupils were just as blown as Oksana’s. It made her stomach flutter.
Before Oksana could say anything, Eve brought their lips back together again. Oksana took it for encouragement or permission or capitulation, Eve didn’t care which. She felt the younger woman’s fingers dip lower along her skin, sliding expertly between Eve and the fabric of her underwear, lower and lower.
Eve faintly registered that she might be about to have her first sexual encounter with a woman. She wondered if she should feel nervous.
And then Oksana’s fingers dipped low, through skin, meeting slickness, and Eve forgot about any of it, entirely.
Eve huffed against Oksana’s lips while her hips bucked forwards. Oksana’s fingers pressed further along her, past her clit, through the heat of her, and Eve didn’t fight it when her eyes fluttered shut. She couldn’t remember the last time someone’s touch had felt so good.
Had it ever?
Oksana seemed so capable of speaking Eve’s name with reverence. With a devotion that should be reserved for a church service.
Eve brought both her hands to rest on Oksana’s shoulders, steadying herself as she pushed forwards and did her best to kiss the younger woman again. It was a hard task, given the way Oksana’s fingertips slid against her. Eve eventually gave up and let her forehead rest against Oksana’s while the blonde kept trailing her fingers slowly along her. Eve’s breath left her in a raspy, panting mess.
Still, Oksana refused to do more. She didn’t circle back to Eve’s clit. She didn’t press inwards. She just let her fingers run through Eve, savouring every moment.
“You’re teasing me,” Eve ground out.
Oksana was quiet for a few moments. Her fingers stilled. “Actually…” She pulled back so that she could look up at Eve, balanced over top of her and out of breath. “I was thinking that I would like to take you to bed.”
Eve felt her mouth go dry. Oksana seemed almost a little bit nervous at the admission. Eve only felt more turned on. “Oh.”
“Yes. Would that be… okay?”
Oksana was staring up at her with her knowing eyes, uncharacteristically shy in that moment, and Eve knew then, more than ever, that she could never refuse this woman anything.
“Yes,” she breathed.
Oksana smiled gratefully and pulled her fingers slowly out from beneath Eve’s clothes. Eve bit back the groan that rose in her throat at the loss of contact, but then Oksana pressed her lips to her neck, and any discomfort was forgotten.
The next thing she knew, strong arms folded around her, and Oksana pushed them off the couch in one fluid motion, lifting Eve as she went until Eve wrapped her legs around the other woman’s waist. She couldn’t help the little gasp that escaped her lips at the movement, although it was quickly swallowed by the press of Oksana’s lips to her own.
It crossed Eve’s mind, errantly, that she didn’t think she’d ever been handled like this; with excitement and passion and an unbridled desire for something more. Oksana wanted more from her.
Niko had never wanted more. He had always been content with the bare minimum of her, until she had snapped and become too much, all at once.
In Oksana’s arms, Eve felt herself being carried across the living room and towards her bedroom. She heard the soft footfalls of Oksana’s steps along the floor. She felt the wood of the bedroom door along her shoulder as it was pushed aside. She felt gravity shift, and then the gentle impact of the mattress against her back as she was lowered onto the bed.
Their kiss broke apart as Eve laid out on the bed and Oksana began to crawl over top of her. Before the younger woman could kiss her again, Eve huffed out something that had been on her mind. “I’ve never done this before.”
Oksana smiled gently, confidently. “It’s okay, I know what I’m doing.”
“Okay, good, because I don’t.”
The blonde’s smile turned to a devilish grin. She brought her body fully over top of Eve and leaned forward to kiss at her throat. “Don’t worry, Eve,” she purred, her lips teasing along Eve’s skin. “We’ll take things nice... and slow.”
it would not be Cliff's Edge without a smutty cliffhanger. tune in next time for full, uncensored hanky panky.
Chapter 18: Quiver
nsfw, unless you're working from home. then technically safe for work, if still not entirely appropriate for it.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It had been a tragically long time since Eve had thought of her body as anything other than a vessel for her consciousness. Her body was an average one, with all the trappings of typicality, and it got her from point A to point B in one piece. That was all that she had asked of it over the last several years at the homestead: reliability.
And sure, there had been the odd occasion of sex with Hugo. Something her body did to feel good, but it came without any bells or whistles. It was nothing special, just an itch to be scratched.
Oksana’s fingertips along her ribs, her lips ghosting below her ear; these things reminded her what bodies could be good for. What a body could really feel. Without a body, there was no touch. Without touch-
Eve tilted her head back and let out a shaky exhale as Oksana’s lips pressed insistently to the underside of her jaw. Her hand trailed slowly up Eve’s ribs, under the fabric of her shirt. It was so simple, but Eve found it deliciously maddening. Her breath caught somewhere between her lungs and her lips, and she felt Oksana smirk against her skin at the sound of her strangled gasp.
It was a bit ridiculous, thought Eve, that they hadn’t even really done anything yet. They were on her bed, Oksana holding herself above her and Eve… a little lost about what she should be doing with her own hands, really. But she could still remember the feel of Oksana’s fingers running over her skin, slick from her own-
“I’m going to touch you now,” Eve choked out. It was something she imagined Oksana saying, assertively, but from her own mouth the words sounded inexperienced and unsure.
Oksana pulled back from Eve’s neck and looked down at her with a hint of amusement. “Are you nervous, Eve?”
Eve brought her hands up to Oksana’s hips and held her there. She tried to remember what she’d done on the couch, only minutes ago, that had led them to this. The bed was just so much more… intimate.
“I’m not nervous, I just…,” Eve frowned. “I want this, want you, and have for a while now. So. That’s daunting.”
Oksana took a moment to appreciate Eve’s admission before she replied, “Then let yourself want me, and stop thinking so much. You are usually very impulsive, no?”
“It was a rhetorical question, Eve. Shut up.” Oksana brought her lips back down to Eve’s neck, kissing along it slowly from her shoulder to her ear.
“That's-” Eve couldn’t help her laboured breathing. “-my line.”
She felt Oksana’s breath tickle her ear. She expected some sort of witty remark but all she heard was a low hum of appreciation as the blonde brought one hand into Eve’s hair. She pulled away from Eve’s neck and hovered over her, looking down at her with a cocky smirk on her face.
“If you will not shut up, I will make you shut up.”
She leaned down and brought her lips to Eve’s gently. It was surprising; Eve had expected something rough. Something to make her toes curl. Instead, she felt heat creep down her body, slow and steady like the rhythm of their kiss, infecting every part of her with a simple desire for more.
Eve brought one of her hands from Oksana’s hip and traced past her cheek and over the shell of her ear until she could tangle her fingers in loose, blonde hair. The younger woman seemed to appreciate it, humming against Eve’s lips even as her own hand left Eve’s curls behind, venturing down her neck, nail dragging along the way.
Eve let her other hand slide to the front of Oksana’s hip and grip hard. She brought one leg up and propped it between Oksana’s thighs, mostly just to get herself more comfortable, but then Oksana let out a small gasp at the contact and Eve felt that slow-burning heat ignite.
She felt blood rush down between her legs, and her body seemed to know exactly what to do from there. She took advantage of Oksana’s parted lips and kissed her hard, open-mouthed, before biting down on her bottom lip as she pulled away. Oksana groaned against her, and Eve felt her hips jerk down a bit on her thigh. It was Eve’s turn to smirk, and she took her hands and moved them to the hem of Oksana’s shirt, tugging it slowly up the woman’s body.
Oksana got the hint and pulled away for a moment so that Eve could pull the shirt over her head. It was one of Eve’s, something she hadn’t even really noticed until that moment, she was so used to the sight of Oksana in her clothes. Beneath it, she wore a bra that was definitely not Eve’s, but before Eve could really let her eyes roam over it, Oksana was already pulling it off.
And, oh- that stopped Eve dead in her tracks.
“Fuck.” She whispered it under her breath, but in the silence of the room it was easily heard. Oksana let out a low chuckle. Eve thought she sounded rather breathless herself, sitting above her, naked from the waist up. “Can I-?”
Oksana looked down at her with blown pupils, and Eve knew the answer was ‘yes’ before she’d even asked it, but the words had slipped out. She didn’t regret the request. Oksana nodded, and Eve brought her hands up to her chest.
It was tentative and slow and probably not sexy at all, Eve decided. The way she trailed her fingers slowly along Oksana’s ribs up to her breasts, resting her hands just underneath them. Eve stopped.
“I told you I-”
“Like this,” Oksana cut her off. She placed one of her own hands over top of Eve’s and guided her until she held her breast in the palm of her hand. She held her fingers over Eve’s, pressing Eve’s fingers into her skin, and when she arched her back into the touch, Eve couldn’t help a small gasp that escaped her lips.
“That’s good,” Oksana breathed, still straddling Eve’s thigh. “And,” she nudged Eve’s thumb over her nipple, “-that too.”
Then she dropped her hand away and Eve was on her own.
Eve swiped her thumb over Oksana’s nipple again, like she’d shown her, and when Oksana’s hips jerked against her thigh, Eve decided she was done with taking things slow.
“Come here,” she commanded, and it was raspier and lower than she’d ever heard her own voice before. She snaked a hand up around Oksana’s neck and pulled her down, kissing her hard and running her thumb over her nipple again. She felt Oksana’s moan more than she heard it; a vibration against her lips that set her body on fire.
She felt one of Oksana’s hands a moment later, creeping along her hip and then pushing up the fabric of her shirt. The younger woman pulled back for a moment and devoted her attention to the removal of Eve’s clothing. She only had one hand, the other propping her up on the bed, so Eve helped her out by tugging it the rest of the way over her head. Unlike Oksana, she wasn’t wearing a bra underneath.
“Mm,” Oksana hummed as she began to pepper kisses down Eve’s jaw and neck. “You have a very nice body, Eve.”
She trailed her mouth lower, and Eve wanted to reply, wanted to make some snarky or sexy comment that matched the inferno blazing inside of her, but she couldn’t think of much beyond the press of Oksana’s lips, lower and lower, until she felt her mouth graze her nipple, and she tilted her head back at the feel of it.
Then Oksana wrapped her lips around it, and Eve let out a shaky breath. A small puff of air. Then she felt Oksana’s tongue against her and she gasped in full.
“ Oh .”
Oksana hummed again, this time against her breast, and Eve tangled a hand in her hair without even thinking, holding the other woman against her and putting her other arm above her head, against the headboard. Oksana let her free hand trail down Eve’s ribs, along her hip, and to the waistband of her sweats. She dipped her fingers below the material and let them trail along the fabric of Eve’s underwear, overtop of her clit, teasing her. Eve groaned and Oksana pulled her mouth away.
“I am going to take the rest of your clothes off now.”
“Ok but-” Eve cut off abruptly as Oksana’s fingers pressed harder against her. It made her hips jerk and her thigh press hard against the other woman, and for a moment they were both breathless. When Eve caught her breath she continued, “-you too.”
“You first,” Oksana replied, and she crawled lower down Eve’s body until she was hovering over her waist, eyes focused on the motions of her hands at Eve’s hips. Eve felt her breath catch in the back of her throat. This was happening; Oksana was stripping her naked, wanting her, craving her. Eve felt pressure building between her legs at the thought. She remembered Oksana's fingers running through her, on the couch, and she knew she wouldn't last long when she felt them again.
Oksana dipped her fingers beneath Eve’s clothing, grabbing at her hips, and began to pull them off in one fluid motion. She hooked her fingers beneath the material of her underwear as well, and so it all came off at once, slowly, sliding down her legs as Oksana followed the motion. Eve helped her, kicking the clothing off her ankles. She'd never found the act of stripping to be particularly sexy; it never went the way it did in the movies. But with the way Oksana was looking down at her with blown pupils and a heaving chest, Eve thought she might have to reevaluate her opinion on it after all.
“Eve,” Oksana breathed, kneeling near Eve’s shins and looking down at her in obvious appreciation. “You are…”
Eve shook her head. “Shut up.”
“Shut up and touch me.”
If Oksana was taken aback by Eve’s commanding tone, she didn’t show it. She just leaned forwards and planted a kiss along the inside of Eve’s knee.
“You don’t let me talk,” she murmured as she began kissing a slow trail up Eve’s legs, crossing back and forth between them, “so I will just show you.”
She kissed higher and higher until she reached the apex of Eve’s thighs. Eve was struggling to breathe, but she also found her nervousness coming back. She hadn’t- no one had-
It had been a long time since someone had wanted to do this with her. With their mouth.
“Wait,” she choked out. Oksana brought her lips away from her thighs and looked up at her questioningly. “I’m not- I-”
God, how embarrassing.
“You do not want this?” Oksana asked.
“I do, I’m just not… ready? Is that-” Eve cut herself off. She huffed out in exasperation. “I sound silly-”
“You don’t,” Oksana told her, pressing another kiss to Eve’s thigh, but higher, nearer to her hip. “I can do other things to you, Eve, that I am certain you will still like very much.”
Eve didn’t think she would ever get used to how easy it was for Oksana to render her speechless. “Oh- okay,” she stuttered.
Oksana hummed in pleasure against Eve’s skin and continued kissing up along her body. Eve closed her eyes and let herself enjoy the feel of it, pushing her embarrassing moment from earlier out of her mind. And then she remembered,
“Hey, I said ‘you too’.”
Oksana stopped kissing her and rolled her eyes. “I am trying to pleasure you.” When Eve shot her a look, Oksana huffed and rolled to the side so that she could kick off her pants. Once they were off, she rolled back and settled on top of Eve. “There.”
“You still have your underwear on,” Eve pointed out. Her eyes were roaming over Oksana’s pale legs, bracketing her hips.
“I do. I’m going to flip us, you could help.”
“What?” Eve hardly registered what the other woman had said before Oksana grabbed her and rolled them sideways. Eve tried her best to carry her momentum through, and she wound up on top of Oksana only slightly disoriented, legs now straddling the other woman’s hips. “Why did you-”
And then Oksana pushed up from the bed in one strong motion, and Eve instinctively clutched against her in surprise, wrapping her legs around her and supporting herself on Oksana’s shoulders. The younger woman used the opportunity to kiss along Eve’s neck. Then she took one hand and traced her fingers along Eve’s hip, slowly, and down the slope of her thigh.
“I’m going to touch you now.”
And damn her, Eve thought, because she had been right. It was something that Oksana would say, and it had come out assertively, and sexy, and-
Eve felt Oksana’s fingers drag through her heat, slow, methodical, and they’d been there once before already that evening but it had been too short, too awkward, on the couch. This was-
Eve let her head roll back and her eyes flutter shut. “God,” she rasped.
Oksana pressed her lips to Eve’s collarbones and kept her fingers moving. Down, down, until they met all of Eve’s wetness, and she felt Oksana moan from the back of her throat, a low and molten thing. It made Eve shiver.
Oksana dragged her fingertips back up to Eve’s clit, circling it, and Eve choked on her words. She felt Oksana bite at the skin along her chest and she arched her back at the feel of it, and that seemed to be encouragement enough, because then Oksana’s fingers dragged lower, back through her heat, until,
“I’m going to fuck you now.” She said it so simply, the words coming out hot against Eve’s skin, but Eve’s entire body responded in earnest.
“Yes,” she breathed, bringing one hand to the back of Oksana’s head, the other clutching at her shoulder. “Yes-”
She cut off suddenly as she felt Oksana’s fingers press into her, slow and purposeful, until the younger woman was fully inside of her, filling her up. It was enough to make her moan. Oksana panted heavily against Eve’s chest before bringing her mouth to Eve’s lips. She held back though, her lips so close to Eve’s without touching, their laboured breaths mingling.
“You feel good, Eve.” She pulled her fingers out, slow, before pushing into Eve again. “So good.” Her Russian accent seemed to slouch with exaggerated sensuality over her words. Eve had never found accents to be particularly sexy, but, well…
There was a first time for everything.
Eve pitched forwards and kissed her hard, catching the other woman by surprise and forcing her to fight to keep her balance sitting up on the bed. Oksana brought her hand into Eve’s hair, knotting her fingers tightly in her curls, and kissed her back with equal enthusiasm. Then she started a slow rhythm with her other hand, driving her fingers in and out of Eve, savouring every arch of her back and clench of her muscles as she went.
Eve felt desired. She felt hot. Tightly wound and waiting to snap. She felt full every time Oksana pushed into her. She felt like the sand on a beach as the waves came and went; caressed by the touch of the water, heavy with it even as it receded before overwhelming her again.
And if she was the sand then Oksana was the ocean. And she was sinking and floating all at once. She thought she could taste salt on her tongue.
Eve hadn’t realized that she’d moved her lips from Oksana’s mouth and pressed them down along her neck. She let her tongue run over smooth skin until the press of Oksana’s fingers forced her to back off and breathe.
The slow pace didn’t last long. Oksana began moving her hand faster, harder, and Eve felt herself losing more and more control. Once she let her body take over, she ground her hips against Oksana’s hand in time with her rhythm, and the hand holding Oksana’s shoulder dug hard into her muscles. Oksana sucked in a breath in as Eve’s nails etched crescent moons into her skin.
“Sorry,” Eve panted, her brain registering for a moment that maybe she’d done some damage.
“I don’t care.” Oksana’s fingers never slowed. If anything, she picked up her pace, and Eve felt her eyes roll back at the pressure. “I like it, Eve.”
“Fuck,” Eve groaned. “Again.”
“My name,” she huffed. She was getting close; closer to this thing that had been between them all night. All week. Maybe ever since they’d first met. “Say my name.”
“Eve.” Oksana breathed it against her neck, Eve’s head thrown back as she drew closer to tumbling over the edge.
Eve felt it coming like a wave, cresting and then breaking. She had to pull her hand from Oksana’s hair and place it on the woman’s other shoulder, bracing herself with both hands while Oksana wrapped her free arm around Eve’s waist, holding her tight, keeping her grounded.
“I am here, Eve."
“Fuck-” she was swearing louder, her hips moving faster.
"Eve," Oksana whispered it against Eve’s neck, pressing her lips softly even as her hand worked harder between Eve’s legs, her palm making contact with her clit as her fingers pushed into her insistently.
“Oh, fuck- fuck -”
Eve’s grip tightened against Oksana’s shoulders, her fingers digging into her skin with enough force to hurt, but Oksana didn’t seem to care. Her back arched and her swearing devolved into a wordless moan as she felt her orgasm take her. Oksana pulled her tight and pushed her fingers in deep, one last time, holding them there as Eve shook around her.
The feeling of it crashed into her, amazing and overwhelming. Definitely better than walking along those damned cliffs. Better than tumbling over the edge. And she was tumbling, falling, held steady only by Oksana’s arm around her waist as her body spasmed with pleasure.
After a few seconds suspended, muscles tensed, Eve gave out and slumped forwards. Her forehead came to rest on Oksana’s. She might’ve kissed the younger woman if she hadn’t been breathing too hard to make the effort.
They sat like that for a little while, until Eve had to break the silence.
“Wow,” she panted.
“Mm,” Oksana hummed, pulling back so that she could look at Eve properly. Eve felt even more flushed under that gaze, heavy and piercing and obviously aroused. She deflected from the heat of it.
“We could have been doing this so much sooner.” She meant it jokingly, except that, well, she had first thought about sex with Oksana nearly two months ago, so…
Oksana shook her head. “No, we could not have.”
That took her by surprise. “What?”
“We could not have done this any sooner, Eve. It would not have been- you didn’t know…”
It took Eve a moment to realize what she was trying to get at, and then it dawned on her. “Because I didn’t know the truth?”
Oksana frowned but then nodded. “You are… different. I would not want to…”
“Use me? The way you’ve used others?” Konstantin had told her enough to know the gist of Oksana's past sexual encounters.
Oksana nodded again.
“Well,” Eve smirked, trying to hide the affection she felt at the woman's words. “I know you now, Villanelle. I’d say I know you very well.”
Oksana rolled her eyes. “I do not need you to call me that.”
“It doesn’t make you feel powerful?” Eve teased.
“Oh, it does. But I do not need or want to feel powerful like that with you.
“Oh? What do you want to feel then?”
Eve expected a snarky response or some innuendo that would inevitably lead to more sex. Instead, Oksana’s response caught her completely off guard. “I want to feel like me.” She paused, and then, “I want to feel like-”
Eve didn’t let her finish. She leaned forwards and pressed a gentle kiss to Oksana’s lips. When she pulled back, Oksana was frowning at her slightly.
“It’s rude to cut someone off when they are speaking, Eve.”
“Sorry.” Eve shrugged. “I’ll make it up to you somehow, I’m sure.
“Yes,” Oksana leaned forwards as if to kiss her, only to duck her head at the last moment and bite playfully at her neck. “You will.” And then she slowly dragged her fingers from their place inside of Eve.
Eve couldn’t help but moan at the retreating touch, at the feel of Oksana’s fingers leaving her body. Before she could say anything more, Oksana held her tight and flipped them back over on the bed, and Eve was on her back once again. She felt Oksana drop her thigh between her legs and press into her gently. She was still sensitive and the pressure made her gasp and clutch at Oksana in surprise.
“This time,” she whispered as she hovered over Eve. “ You will be the one saying my name. Preferably, very loudly.”
Eve woke up the next morning groggy, thirsty, and naked. She was lying flat on her stomach, her face squished against a pillow. The comforter was bunched at the end of the bed, half on the floor, and the sheets covered her only up to her waist. She thought that if she opened her mouth to speak she might sound like she smoked ten packs a day. But she felt good.
She felt really fucking good.
She didn’t think she’d had sex that good, well... ever. Not with Hugo. Certainly not with Niko. She thought that if she’d had mindblowing sex in college she would still remember that too but nothing came to mind. She sighed heavily, contentedly, and rolled over.
Oksana lay next to her, on her back and spread out like a starfish. One arm was propped behind the pillows, nearly reaching Eve, while the other was flung out over the edge of the bed. Eve wanted to laugh at the sight of it.
Of course, that was the moment her brain decided to start thinking again.
About the night before, sure. And about Oksana leaving. About her job and what ‘retiring’ would entail and how it might not end well for her. And about her leaving. About Interpol still hunting her even if they’d lost her trail, and about her dead mother and Konstantin supervising her. And about her leaving.
Eve sighed again, less contentedly this time. Oksana stirred from her place beside her.
“Mmm. Good morning, Eve.” It was low and raspy and reminded Eve of every press of her lips from the night before, all over her body. Never there, though. Never against the core of her. She hadn’t let Oksana do that, not yet. She wasn’t sure why, really, it just felt…
She knew she was nervous about it. She pushed those thoughts away.
“Good morning.” She was surprised to hear her own voice come out in the same sultry tone. She sounded like someone who’d had a good night’s fuck.
“Did you sleep well?” Oksana asked her, rolling onto her side and smirking at her devilishly.
“What do you think?”
“Mm,” she hummed again, far too pleased with herself. “I think you had an amazing night.”
It wasn’t lost on Eve that she’d said ‘night’ and not ‘sleep’. Eve shook her head in amusement. “You’re impossible.”
Oksana shrugged at that. Then, she pushed herself up and towards Eve, planting a soft kiss on her lips before pulling away slightly. “I also think that I am going to go shower.”
“Yes. I had a very intense workout last night, Eve.”
Eve rolled her eyes. “Again. Impossible.”
“Hmm.” Oksana untangled herself from the sheets and rose out of bed. Eve watched her as she went, naked and pale in the early morning light. She looked back over her shoulder at Eve. “You are welcome to join me, of course.”
Eve felt her mouth go dry. “Oh, uh, maybe… next time?”
If Oksana was offended, she didn’t show it. She merely shrugged and began walking towards the bedroom door. “Suit yourself.” And then she walked out and into the hallway, turning towards the bathroom and disappearing from view.
Eve let out a breath she hadn’t known she’d been holding. She wasn’t sure what to think, what to feel, except that her body was pleasantly sore and lethargic, while her brain seemed intent upon dredging up a myriad of thoughts that she really didn’t want to think about at that moment.
“Coffee,” she muttered. “I’ll make coffee.”
She kicked the sheets off her legs and rolled out of bed, rubbing at her eyes blearily. She couldn’t imagine the tangled mess that her hair would be, after the night before, but she decided to worry about it later. She stood up and lazily threw on a pair of shorts and an old sweater. She didn’t even bother with underwear. She just needed to get out of the bedroom.
If she concentrated, she thought she could vaguely smell the scent of sex still permeating the air.
She shook her head and made for the door. As she walked out of the bedroom, the sound of running water pulled her attention down the hallway, towards the bathroom.
Oksana had left the bathroom door open, an obvious invitation for Eve to join her. Eve watched from the hallway as steam curled tantalizingly in the open doorway.
She didn’t even know, really, why she’d refused the offer in the first place. She’d been thinking about Oksana leaving, and then the younger woman had so brazenly invited her to join her, and Eve had just sort of panicked, a little bit.
But the reality of it was that Oksana was not staying. Eve had so little time left with her...
She watched the steam twist in the doorway. She could imagine it like a curling finger, beckoning her towards the shower.
Eve shook her head. She turned towards the kitchen. She took one step.
She caved. She turned around and made for the bathroom, stripping her sweater off as she went and tossing it carelessly onto the floor. When she stepped into the bathroom she closed the door softly behind her. She kicked off her shorts and was glad she hadn’t bothered with underwear.
The door to the shower was frosted glass. She could see Oksana’s silhouette inside, blurred, facing away from her and towards the showerhead. Eve opened the door gently and stepped into a wall of steam. She closed the door behind her and turned back towards Oksana.
Eve took a moment to appreciate her body, eyes roaming over her shoulders, the slope of her spine, the curve of her ass, before she shook herself and stepped towards her.
“I changed my mind,” she whispered as she brought her chest flush against Oksana’s back. The water made it feel a hundred times more sensual like she could feel every movement of Oksana against her. Eve felt herself getting turned on from the simple act of holding herself against the other woman.
If Oksana was surprised, she didn’t show it. Instead, she merely hummed contentedly and leaned back into Eve’s embrace. “I am glad.”
“Mm,” Eve hummed, pressing her lips to the wet skin of Oksana’s shoulder blades. Then, she felt the other woman twist in her arms, and suddenly they were chest to chest.
“There is something I want to do for you, Eve.”
“Yes. Something you did not want to do earlier. I think you are nervous, and that is okay.”
Eve swallowed hard, her throat dry despite the humidity in the tiny shower. She let her eyes slide past Oksana and focus on the cedar-panelled walls behind her. The way they soothed her. The way they dulled light around them and made it feel like a world of its own. Eve took a breath.
“Okay.” It came out shaky, but certain, and Oksana’s eye lit up even she kept her voice calm and soothing.
“Okay,” the blonde replied, letting her hands slide down Eve’s body to rest on her hips. “Just relax.” She pushed against Eve and forced her to back up, guiding her until her back hit the wooden walls. “I am going to take good care of you.”
“Right,” Eve croaked.
Oksana smiled at her confidently before leaning forward and kissing her. Eve tried to focus on it but her heart was racing. She thought she might be making herself lightheaded with the thought of what Oksana wanted to do to her.
It wasn’t a big deal. She didn’t know why she was reacting like this. But Hugo had never done it, and with Niko, well, the odd time, sure, but eventually there had been the moustache and the marital problems to contend with, and over time the sex between them had lost the aspect of pleasure.
And it wasn’t a big deal, it was just that she was a woman in her forties who was having sex with someone nearly half her age and that someone was a woman and that woman was gorgeous.
And a ruthless assassin, amongst other things, but that was hardly the most terrifying thing now.
The most terrifying thing now was that she was vulnerable, split open, and she wanted it. God, she wanted it. And, oh, Oksana was moving, she was kissing lower, and lower, and Eve was frozen under those lips.
She watched as Oksana sunk to one knee in front of her, the blonde’s eyes never leaving her own. It stirred something in her chest, sent a warmth down her spine, and she felt her lips part in a small gasp. It was hot and sexy and made Eve feel desirable. It made her feel less nervous. She felt like the object of someone’s worship, watching Oksana on her knees. For a moment that had all the trappings of spirituality, what tumbled out of her mouth was, “That can’t be comfortable.”
Oksana smirked and ran her hands up along the outsides of Eve’s thighs. Eve found it harder to breathe, suddenly.
“I am willing to endure a little discomfort...” Oksana looped an arm behind Eve’s knee and pulled gently, forcing Eve to hook that leg over her shoulder. “...For this.”
And then she pressed her lips against Eve, softly, in a simple kiss against the most sensitive part of her. Eve let her head roll back until it hit the wood panels behind her.
Oksana planted gentle kisses all along the places between her thighs, pressing her lips delicately as though Eve might shatter. Eve felt nervous, self-conscious. Opened up for the younger woman to see and to taste. She thought about the water of the shower, still running, and whether she should feel bad for wasting it. She thought about the cliffs and how they had crumbled beneath her feet. She thought about the cedar walls, how the panelled wood always made her feel calm. The thoughts raced around quickly. Eve knew it was from nerves, from the reality of what was going to happen.
Then Oksana let her tongue unfurl against her, only slightly, teasing around her clit like she was trying to ease Eve into it. Eve swore under her breath. She thought she could feel Oksana smirking against her skin.
As she raised an arm above her head to brace herself against the wooden wall, Eve had a flickering thought of redwoods; of tall, towering trees, quivering in the wind. She quivered, too, and then Oksana drew her tongue along her clit in a slow, broad stroke, and finally, Eve stopped thinking.
sorry y'all, got a lil carried away with this one. tune in next week for even more sexcapades! but not 5000+ words of it, i swear there will be plot.
Chapter 19: Intermission
time for sex PART 2! and also some plot.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Eve had never pleasured a woman before. It was quickly becoming her new favourite thing to do. Oksana lay underneath her, eyes shut and chest heaving as Eve watched the movements of her own hand between the other woman’s legs.
It was new and different and wholly unlike the sex she’d been having for most of her life. Whether that was because Oksana was a woman, or Oksana was Oksana, she wasn’t quite sure.
They were back in the bedroom, mid-morning sunlight shining through the windows. Their shower had lasted longer than any shower had the right to, and Eve had been momentarily guilty for the waste of the water. Of course, it had become hard to focus on that after Oksana had sunk to her knees and run her tongue along the heat of her.
When they’d finally shut off the water and stepped out of the shower, Eve had entertained the idea of making Oksana breakfast. That was a good thing to do after a night of mindblowing sex, right? Make the other person breakfast?
And then Oksana had kissed her, had pushed her back against the tiny bathroom counter and run her fingers along the insides of Eve’s thighs. Their naked bodies pressed against each other, all thoughts of breakfast had promptly vanished from her mind.
The thought that had arisen, however, was persistent and deafening, and she’d spoken it out loud with a sudden boldness.
Oksana had pulled back, surprised, before Eve had finished,
“-It’s my turn.”
She’d half expected Oksana to refuse her. Eve could tell that the younger woman wanted to be in control. But then Oksana had nodded at her, and it was almost shy, and Eve felt in that moment that Oksana’s motivations were less about the power of controlling and more about the fear of submission.
It was another piece of the puzzle and Eve would find time to relish it later. In that moment, she had more pressing concerns, like kissing Oksana with an open mouth and guiding her backwards down the hall to the bedroom.
And now, Eve was on top of her, two fingers inside of her, and what had started out as a tentative pace had turned into a more confident rhythm as she worked her fingers enthusiastically. At first, Oksana had helped her, telling her what she liked and what she wanted and how to work her up while Eve had traced along her breasts and her ribs and her thighs. Then, Eve had let her fingers run along Oksana’s sex for the first time, dragging through heat and slickness and obvious want, and Oksana’s instructions had been reduced to more basic requests of ‘there’ and ‘don’t stop’ and ‘more’.
“Eve,” she panted. “It’s good- that’s good- you’re-”
Eve curled her fingers, something she’d remembered Oksana doing to her, and the result was a strangled gasp leaving the other woman’s lips. Eve smiled, emboldened, and leaned forwards over Oksana’s body. She kept herself propped up with one hand and then bent forward to kiss lightly at Oksana’s chest.
She’d only touched, before. Now she could feel with her lips, with her tongue.
She wrapped her mouth around Oksana’s nipple and caressed it lightly with her tongue.
“Fuck,” Oksana breathed heavily, back arching up.
Eve kept her mouth on Oksana’s breast while her hand kept busy between her legs. It was a bit challenging, at first, keeping the rhythm with her fingers while doing something different with her tongue, but Eve prided herself on being a quick learner, when she wanted to be, and soon enough she felt Oksana’s hand reaching into her hair, knotting tight and holding her head against her.
“Eve, oh- you feel-” She cut off abruptly into a low moan, her head tilting back, her free hand flying to the headboard of the bed. “I’m nearly there-”
Eve forced her hand to work faster, trying as best she could to match the way Oksana had fucked her earlier; fingers straight and deep and precise. But the more Eve tried, the more she lost track of what her mouth was doing, and she felt like giving her focus to one meant sacrificing the other.
She let her tongue curl around the nipple in her mouth one more time, sucking on it hard before pulling back, releasing it as Oksana’s grip in her hair loosened.
“Is this enough?”
Oksana opened her eyes and looked down at Eve. “Just-” She moved her hand from the headboard and latched it around Eve’s wrist between her legs, “-tilt so that- yes, like that.”
Eve felt her hand being pulled against Oksana’s body, her palm brushing her clit as her fingers kept working in and out of her. She got the idea and watched as Oksana’s eyes rolled back at the new contact.
Then, she felt Oksana’s hand in her hair tighten again, tugging her upwards and pulling her into a sloppy kiss. It was all hot breath and arousal. Eve pulled back and let her mouth hover above Oksana’s as the woman beneath her drew closer to the edge.
“Yes, Eve, there-”
Eve did as she was told, did it faster and harder and watched, mesmerized, as she worked Oksana into her orgasm.
It was short and reserved, little more than a tightening of muscles while she threw her head back and squeezed her eyes shut. It was more silent, more restrained than Eve had thought it would be. But she’d felt Oksana clench around her fingers, felt her nails digging into her scalp as she’d come, and now she had the evidence of it all over her hand as she pulled it from between Oksana’s legs. Eve smiled.
After a few moments, Oksana opened her eyes and looked at Eve. Her voice was a little raspy when she said, “Not bad for your first time.”
Eve shook her head and laughed at her. “You asshole.”
“Mm. Come here, please.”
Eve obeyed the request, leaning forward and gently kissing the other woman on the lips. Then, she rolled sideways and landed next to her on the bed. “So, not bad, hm?”
“Not bad. Good. Very nice.”
“‘Very nice’, wow.”
“Very, very nice.”
“Hm, I guess that’s good enough for now.” Eve pressed a kiss to Oksana’s shoulder. “Maybe one day I’ll reach the level of ‘mindblowing’.”
Neither of them mentioned the indefinite nature of ‘one day’. Instead, Oksana hummed and said, a bit apprehensively, “I don’t usually… Normally, I am not the one being touched.”
Eve was taken aback for a moment, surprised at the admission, even as she felt herself getting turned on again by it. There was something intoxicating about the thought that she was one of the rare few who got to touch Oksana like that.
“That’s…” Eve remembered her thought from earlier, of Oksana struggling to relinquish control. “-generous of you.”
Oksana snorted. “Yes, I am a giver, Eve. I only want to please people."
“And in pleasing them, I take things too. I take them and their bodies and the sounds they make when they come. I take them on their backs, on their knees, or bent over for me. And then I deny them the opportunity to do the same thing to me.”
“You like to be in control, then.”
“Very much, yes.”
“And with me?”
Oksana was silent a moment before she shrugged nonchalantly. “You are different. It is nice to switch things up a bit.”
“You are such an asshole,” Eve huffed, rolling over and making for the edge of the bed. It really was time they got up and ate something.
Before she made it, she felt Oksana grab her wrist. She paused and looked over her shoulder back at her, naked and lounging and not looking like she was planning to get up at all.
“With you, I can let go.” She said it softly, but her eyes held Eve’s with a fierceness.
Eve felt shivers down her spine, sparking that arousal from earlier, and she let herself be pulled back into the bed, back to Oksana’s body. She supposed making food could wait a little while longer.
They were eating lazily in bed, dehydrated and spent, talking about nothing of consequence. It was such a change from their earlier dynamic, how Eve had had to poke and prod and pull to get any sort of information out of Oksana. Now, the other woman spoke more freely about almost anything. Eve knew it wasn’t the sex that had done it, but more likely the trust involved in the way they’d had sex. The way Oksana had let go.
It made her heart feel full. Full of… well, she wasn’t ready to delve into those feelings just yet. But it was warm and happy and content.
The plate they were sharing was a mix of fruit and pastries, things Eve had picked up in town with the mindset of treating herself after the stress of Oksana’s departure. How much better it felt to be able to share them with the woman herself, instead.
Oksana was telling her a story, describing a job she’d done in which she’d killed a man with a hairpin. A big, sharp hairpin filled with poison.
“That is so cool.” Eve was lying beside her, propped up on her elbow and watching her with fascination. “I mean, really morally questionable, of course. But cool party trick.”
Oksana rolled her eyes. “Party trick, yes, of course. It was not a work of athleticism, scaling the drainpipe to get in, or an excellent disguise, wearing one of his wife’s dresses. It was just, how would you say it, neat? Nifty?”
Eve couldn’t help but laugh at the woman’s sarcasm. “Very nifty trick.”
Eve’s next question stalled on her tongue. She wanted to ask if Oksana was done with tricks, now. Done with murders. That was what it meant to retire, right? Konstantin had said she’d been changed ever since Gryzmet. Did she want to stop killing altogether now, or just kill more on her own terms?
Before Eve could force the words out of her mouth, Oksana asked a question of her own.
“When will Molly be-” instead of saying ‘due’, she motioned with her hands like she was pushing something down from her belly and out between her legs. Eve grimaced because gross.
“When will she give birth?”
“Yes, that.” Oksana nodded like it was obvious from her demonstration.
“November,” Eve replied. She refused to ask whether or not Oksana would be back by then. It was four months away, but she didn’t want to make any assumptions.
“November,” Oksana repeated, rolling the tail end of the word as it curled over her tongue. She grabbed a grape off the plate and popped it into her mouth.
Silence filled the space between them, light and easy, and Eve felt overwhelmingly calm. The sun was past the midday mark, and only a few clouds dotted the sky that she could see through her large windows. She almost felt guilty for spending such a beautiful day indoors. Almost.
And still, despite the ease of the silence and the calmness within herself, Eve couldn’t help the words that tumbled from her mouth. “What day do you think you’ll be leaving?”
Oksana rolled from her back to face her. “I will stay tonight and tomorrow night, and leave the next morning.”
Eve felt her throat tighten. It was soon, but she’d always known it would be. “Okay,” was all she said.
“But,” Oksana started, “I am still here right now. And I can think of a few ways to spend the day.”
It was an obvious attempt to make her feel better, to ease the anxiety knotting itself in her gut, and Eve appreciated the effort. That gloom still hid somewhere inside her, waiting to unfurl the moment Oksana left, but for now, the younger woman was right. She was still there. She wasn’t gone yet.
Eve caved. “Oh yeah? And what exactly are you thinking about?”
Oksana smirked at her and climbed over top of her. When Eve felt her press her lips to her neck, she willed herself to stop thinking about what would happen in two days' time and focus solely on the pleasures of the present.
It was late afternoon already. Eve couldn’t believe she’d spent nearly an entire day having sex. Sure, there were breaks for water and food and gentle touches that weren’t supposed to go anywhere. But those had simply been intermissions to the main event of their bodies, intertwined and shaking.
Of course, every intermission, every pause in their passion had been intended to be the last one. Eve had tried leaving the bed only to be hauled back to it. She’d made it as far as the hallway once before she felt herself being turned and pushed against the wall and kissed hard, and they’d stumbled back to the bedroom eagerly.
She wondered how much of their sex was really happening in the moment. How much of it was about their bodies at that moment in time, and not about the reality of their upcoming separation. If they’d had all the time in the world, would they still be going at it like rabbits?
She wasn’t thinking those thoughts at that exact moment, however, with her head buried between Oksana’s legs and the woman beneath her moaning loudly. That was one thing she’d noticed with a great amount of pride; as the day wore on, Oksana had let Eve fuck her more, and every time she’d been less reserved than the time before. Eve had her trembling now, back arching as Eve worked her tongue slowly along her clit. Her fingers were buried inside Oksana as well, moving at less of a pace and more of an easing. She didn’t want to make her come just yet.
It had taken a few tries to get used to it, the act of going down on a woman, but Oksana had told her what she wanted and Eve had been all too eager to please. Now she fancied herself getting rather good at it, if Oksana’s reactions were anything to go by.
At that moment, Eve withdrew her mouth from between Oksana’s thighs. Oksana whined at the loss of contact as Eve propped herself up on an elbow so that she could get a better look at the woman spread out on her bed. Eve slowed her fingers until they had nearly stopped, and if Oksana had merely whined before, Eve thought that now she might be almost whimpering.
“Eve, why- don’t-”
Eve stared at her levelly. “Tell me that you’re going to come back.”
Oksana trembled beneath her; close, so close. Tightly wound by Eve’s mouth and unable to release the springs. Still, she managed some of her usual cheekiness. “You know you can’t put faith in the things people say during sex, right?”
Eve didn’t let up. Instead, she began to pull her fingers from Oksana dreadfully slow. Oksana huffed, or tried to huff, but it sounded more like a strangled groan.
“I’m going to come back.” She said it in a rush, desperate for Eve to continue touching her again.
“Look at me.”
It was quite possible that Eve was a little drunk off of the power that she was holding over the other woman, but she didn’t care. She needed to hear those words, even if, as Oksana had said, she couldn’t put faith in them the way that she wanted to.
Oksana opened her eyes, stared at the ceiling for a moment, and then found Eve’s gaze. “Eve, I’m coming back.”
Eve bit her lip. She pushed her fingers inwards again, slowly, revelling in the feel of Oksana all around her. The other woman gasped, a low, grateful ‘yes’ falling from her lips as she struggled to keep her eyes on Eve. They seemed to want to roll back, and the thought made Eve smirk.
“One more time,” she commanded as she readjusted herself and lowered back down to the mattress. “Say it.” She let her tongue graze against Oksana. She wondered if it was possible to taste anticipation.
“ Fuck , Eve, okay. I’m going to come back. I’m going to-”
The rest was lost in a gasp followed by a ragged moan as Eve let her tongue stroke along the woman beneath her. She felt Oksana’s hand grasping in her hair; gentle, insistent, reassuring. She didn’t pull or tug at her, she just knotted her fingers in tight and held Eve to her like a reminder; a reminder that she was there. That she hadn’t left just yet. Eve thought she could hear Oksana whisper the words one more time, her head thrown back.
“I’m going to-”
Eve’s fingers resumed their movements from before, slow at first before building their pace until she felt Oksana’s back arch and her entire body tense. She cried out, and her grip in Eve’s hair did tighten then. Eve kept her tongue working at her clit, her fingers buried deep, while Oksana trembled beneath her, a hand fisted in her hair as she came undone.
When the strings holding Oksana taut were cut, the younger woman seemed to collapse into the bed. She panted, and every third or fourth breath came out more like a moan than an exhalation. Eve felt an absurd sense of pride. She’d done this. She’d reduced Oksana, the hired assassin, the snarky asshole, to this.
Eve pulled back from her spot between Oksana’s legs and began to sit up. Oksana registered the movement, snapped her eyes open, and sat up in a rush, reaching for Eve so that she could pull her forwards into a heated kiss. Eve felt her hum when she tasted herself on Eve’s lips. She licked into Eve’s mouth.
Sex with Niko had never been this good. Doing things for Niko had never earned her this level of appreciation in kind. Eve smiled into the kiss.
While they kissed, she began to pull her fingers from the warmth and slickness between Oksana’s legs. The other woman let out a small gasp before one of her hands moved down and locked firmly around Eve’s wrist. “Stay.”
Incredibly, despite all that had already happened between them, Eve found herself blushing. “Okay,” she murmured.
Oksana smiled before letting herself fall back to the bed. She sighed contentedly and then said, “You know, Eve, I was always going to come back. And I was going to tell you that before I left.”
Eve felt her heart fill with warmth, something different from the heat of sex. Something soft. “Oh.”
Oksana hummed. “But I liked that you made me say it. You can be very… assertive... when you want to be.” Her voice dripped low over the words, and Eve’s heart may have been feeling warm and fuzzy but other parts of her roared with a burning energy.
She heard herself say, “That wasn’t the only thing you liked,” before she curled her fingers experimentally. She was treated to another one of Oksana’s breathy little gasps and a hunger, barely satiated even though they’d just done this, they’d been doing it all day, sparked in her chest.
“You are right, it wasn’t,” Oksana breathed, before she reached up and pulled Eve to her for another kiss. Eve fell forward willingly and let the heel of her palm brush against Oksana’s clit as she went, fingers still idle inside of her.
Oksana blew hot air into her mouth and dug her nails into Eve’s arm. Eve bit at her lip, and the other woman hummed in the back of her throat before she hooked a leg around Eve’s hip and grappled her closer.
What a revelation, to see how Oksana wanted her. It was obvious in the way that she kissed and touched, and the slick press of her all around Eve’s fingers. Eve felt victorious and generous and appreciated all at once.
As her hand pressed between Oksana’s legs again, she sighed happily, letting herself be kissed, and letting herself be happy, too. Oksana had said that she would come back, and Eve found that she really did believe her.
Oksana would come back, and Eve would wait for her. She’d wait as long as she had to.
Moonlight shone through Eve’s bedroom windows, painting the room in a pale glow and making Oksana’s skin look like a porcelain carving. The younger woman was on her stomach, and Eve let her eyes roam along the slope of her calves, the back of her thighs, and up the curve of her ass. She lingered on the small of her back, on the way her spine made divots in her skin as her back arched upwards. She kept tracing those bumps as her eyes trailed higher, to the lines of her ribs and the barely visible swell of her breasts, half-hidden as they were by her arms. Eve drew her view up the curve of her shoulders and the length of her neck and over the hard lines of her jaw. And then she was at her eyes, and those eyes were fixed on hers.
Oksana’s hair was loose and thrown back across her shoulders. Eve longed to run her fingers through it again, for the hundredth time that day.
This was their longest intermission yet. It might very well be the rolling credits. They stared at each other and they both knew what the other was thinking; what they’d avoided for long enough. Oksana broke the silence first.
“I will come back, Eve.”
Eve sighed. “I know you will try.”
“Yes, very hard.”
“But you can’t guarantee it,” Eve pressed on. “You can’t promise me that nothing- that-”
“I can’t promise you that I won’t be killed and disposed of once I make it clear that I want out of the organization.”
Eve scrunched her eyes shut. She didn’t like the cavalier way that Oksana phrased it, but, “Yes. That.”
“I will just have to outsmart them, then.”
“And how will you do that? They’re an international crime syndicate with millions of dollars at their disposal.”
“I am very smart, Eve.”
Eve snorted. “It’s not your smarts that I’m worried about.”
“What are you worried about, then, exactly?”
Eve huffed. “How will I know? I’ll be… blind, to everything. You-” She fought not to raise her voice but she couldn’t help it, tendrils of panic creeping into her chest, “-you could die, and I’d never know! I can’t- there’s no way to talk to you, or they’ll trace you. You have to disappear completely from them, which means from me too, and I just won’t know. I won’t know if anything happens to you-”
Before she could work herself up into a further panic, Oksana leaned forward and grabbed at her wrist and pulled Eve to her. “Hey, I have you, it’s alright.”
Eve could’ve laughed. A merciless assassin was consoling her about said assassin’s very possible death. The assassin was also a beautiful woman with whom she’d spent that last 24 hours having amazing sex with.
Bill, you wouldn’t believe this even if you saw it with your own eyes. Which maybe you have, if you're watching from… wherever you are. In which case, you pervert.
She almost chuckled to herself, but the anxiety in her throat was too strong. It choked her, prevented her laugh from so much as squeaking through. Instead, she just let herself be held.
A few minutes passed before either of them spoke. It was Oksana, again, who broke the silence.
“I have an idea.”
“Hm,” Eve grunted at her, her face pressed into her neck.
“I will talk to Konstantin-”
“Shush, Eve.” Oksana waited a moment to be sure Eve would let her finish, then she continued, “I will talk to Konstantin. I do not trust him entirely, but I don't think he would give me up. He knows I want to leave. I think he is beginning to want to, too. I will talk to him and tell him that I am going to find a way out. And that I am planning to come back to you. I will leave him instructions, though, and if I am killed, he will come and tell you, so that you know.”
Eve waited for more but it seemed that that was all. Her immediate instinct was to refuse but, really, it wasn’t an awful idea. It was more than she had. It might be all she got.
“Okay,” she mumbled.
“Okay. It’s… it’s not a bad idea. At least that way I’ll know if you die.”
“Exactly.” Eve could hear that Oksana was pleased with herself. It was enough to make her lips curl into a small smile. “You will either receive me at your door, or Konstantin, and until you see one of us, you know at least that I am still in the process of getting out.”
“What if they kill you and then Konstantin?”
“Well, now you’re just making more problems,” Oksana scolded her.
“I am not! It’s possible!”
“Shut up, Eve. This is what we will do.”
“I-” Eve tried, but she knew there was no point in arguing. Picking apart Oksana’s idea wouldn’t get them anywhere better. It would only serve to chip away at the paltry comfort that the plan could bring. The tenuous peace of mind. “-Okay. You let him know, then.”
“Good, it’s settled.”
“Hmm,” Eve hummed against Oksana’s skin. “It’s settled.”
It was quiet between them for a bit, and Eve felt her anxiety subsiding, replaced with a slow-creeping exhaustion that had her drifting off against Oksana’s shoulder.
“Are you going to fall asleep now, Eve? You were panicking only a few minutes ago.”
“Shhh.” Eve felt her eyelids getting heavier. “Worrying about you is exhausting work. Plus-” she paused to yawn into Oksana’s neck, “-we hardly slept last night.”
“Yes, and you were very active today too.”
“Mm,” Eve’s brain was slow and sleepy. “Very active fucking your brains out.”
“You are gross when you’re sleepy.”
“You like it,” Eve mumbled, pressing her body further into Oksana’s.
“Maybe,” Oksana replied softly, hands starting to thread themselves through Eve’s hair, but Eve was already fast asleep.
The next day passed in an oddly different fashion than the previous one. There was less sex; fewer desperate kisses and passionate embraces. More gentle touches and longing stares.
They made meals together and talked about inconsequential things. Things of no real meaning but which Eve knew she would cling on to in the coming weeks like life rafts, remembering little details of Oksana in everything from the way she poured her coffee to how she ate apples in big, hulking chunks.
The day was cruel in its passing, racing by them like the last of the sand running through an hourglass, marking their dwindling time together. Before they knew it, night was falling, and their empty dinner plates lay discarded and unwashed in the kitchen sink. They’d thought about watching a movie, but it had seemed a waste of their final night together to spend it staring at anything other than each other.
And so they’d wound up back in bed. The sex was slow and measured and careful, like any sudden move by one might break the other, might shatter the fragile glass holding them above an abyss.
It was all very dramatic in Eve’s mind. She wondered if drama was a hallmark of love. Not that she’d ever considered them lovers. Of course, there was the way Oksana breathed her name like a prayer, and how she chased Oksana’s lips like they supplied the oxygen she needed to breathe.
No, Eve thought. Not lovers.
But something almost like it. If only they’d had a little more time, maybe then…
It was difficult to remind herself that Oksana had promised to return, now that her departure was so close at hand. Eve had tunnel vision, and all she imagined she could see was the retreating silhouette of her lover- not lover- as she walked away from her and into the unknown.
Despite her best efforts, she did fall asleep that night. She’d been staring at Oksana and tracing gentle paths along her skin. They’d let the moonlight shine through the windows again just to have light to see by. But Eve’s body was tired, her mind exhausted, and the gentle scrape of Oksana’s nails at the back of her skull had her nodding off to sleep before she could have any say in the matter.
The sunrise the next morning was the ugliest she’d ever seen. It shone bright and unforgiving as it crested the horizon, and its light woke her up only a few minutes before Oksana did. At the feel of Oksana brushing her hair over her ear, Eve stirred and rolled to face her.
“You’re up early,” she mumbled, still half asleep.
Through half-shut eyes, she watched Oksana smile at her sadly. “You live very far away from places, Eve. I have to leave early if I want to cover a lot of distance today.”
“You don’t want to cover a lot of distance today, though,” Eve mumbled again.
“Eve,” Oksana prodded her gently. “We talked about this. I have to go.”
Eve groaned and rolled out of bed. “I hate that you’re doing this to me.”
Oksana’s voice sounded from behind her. “You are the one who wanted to say goodbye.”
“Yes, yes, it’s my fault. Come on.” Eve threw on shorts and a sweatshirt and padded towards the door. Oksana followed closely behind, already dressed. “Should I make you anything before you go?”
Oksana stepped around her and smiled at her. “No, Eve. Just walk me to the door and kiss me goodbye.”
“I don’t like that.”
Oksana shook her head at her, half amused by Eve’s still sleepy state. “Okay, Eve. Walk me to the door and kiss me.”
Eve made for the front door as slowly as she could without making it obvious. She figured she wasn’t fooling Oksana much at all, but she was grateful for the other woman’s patience as she inched around the house. She could only make the journey so short, unfortunately, and eventually, they were at the door.
Eve cleared her throat awkwardly. “So.”
“This is good- uh, this is it, for now.”
“For now, yes,” Oksana replied, smiling at her unconcernedly.
“Okay.” Eve took a deep breath. “I wanted to tell you that-”
“Stop,” Oksana interrupted her. “It is not goodbye forever. Only a little while.”
“No buts.” And then the younger woman enveloped Eve in a tight hug, pulling their bodies as close together as possible. She pressed a kiss to Eve’s neck before letting go and backing away. “So. Until next time then, yes?”
“Y-yes,” Eve stammered. She wasn’t ready for this moment and yet it was upon her all the same.
“Good.” Oksana nodded, and then she leaned forward and pressed a soft kiss to Eve’s cheek. “I’ll see you soon, baby.”
Then, she pulled away, smiled at Eve, and opened the front door wide. Eve watched in frozen horror as the woman she very nearly loved- she wasn’t sure what it meant but- the woman she cared so much about was about to walk away from her to face fates unknown.
Oksana walked out of the open doorway and down the front path. Eve followed her with her eyes, but her feet seemed rooted to the ground. It occurred to her that she’d never even asked Oksana how she’d gotten back to the homestead, exactly. Maybe she’d walked the whole way. It seemed as if she meant to do the same now.
The early morning light cast a warm glow across the young woman’s back. The bronze light of day met the golden hues of her hair. She walked tall and proud all the way down the path until she reached the dusty dirt road that would curve and bend through the country all the way to the nearest town.
As her feet hit the country lane, Oksana turned and looked back at Eve. Eve’s breath caught in her throat at the sight of her face; lit up by the glow of dawn and smiling boldly at her without a trace of concern.
Eve framed Oksana’s face in her mind, forcing herself to memorize the moment forever. Then she raised a hand in a tentative kind of wave.
Oksana nodded once at her before turning onto the road, smiling all the while. Then she began to walk away. Eve watched her for as long as she could, until the road turned away from the cliffs, around a bend, and she was lost behind a thicket of trees.
next update may or may not be a bit late. the fic is still happening, there's just some hectic things going on in my life rn and I'm not sure at this moment if I'll get the next chapter out on time. it will not be a long ass hiatus like my other fics rn (whooooop my bad), just one week at most.
Chapter 20: Botched Job
sorry for the delay but thanks for y'alls patience <3 we are nearing the end, hold onto your butts
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Oksana stumbled backwards as she clamped her hand over the wound in her stomach. Blood gushed from between her fingers; she really would need medical attention soon. Or maybe she would just die. It seemed a 50/50 scenario at that point.
Her back hit the low barrier behind her. It was not a pedestrian bridge, and the walls meant to dissuade cars from careening off its edges were built only as high as the average front bumper. She leaned against the barrier gratefully, tired of the effort it took to remain standing. Her hand was a bloodied mess.
Konstantin walked towards her, gun at his side. He no longer needed it aimed at her, he had already taken the shot.
“This is what you wanted, Villanelle.” He sounded out of breath. Whether from emotion or exertion, Oksana wasn’t sure. “A way out.”
Oksana nodded, her energy draining fast. “A way out,” she panted.
If she was going to die, after all, the slideshow of her life should be beginning at any moment. Her memories flashing by as a series of vignettes. What a macabre display.
Three weeks earlier...
Walking away from the homestead had been surprisingly easy. Not because she didn’t care about Eve or because she wanted to leave her, but because she felt unwaveringly certain that she would return. She was optimistic and determined, and all in all, she felt good.
She had taken her time in transitioning from the isolation of the countryside to the claustrophobia of cities. Eventually, she’d called Konstantin by payphone in Cambridge. She’d told him she was ready for the next job and that she could meet him in London the next day. He had said he’d meet her, yes, and that they had things to talk about. He gave her the address of a hotel and a room number, then he hung up. It was a very short call.
Oksana met him in the late afternoon of the following day. She’d been in no particular rush. She felt safe, emboldened by how she’d eluded Interpol, and they certainly wouldn’t suspect her to return to the UK so soon. No, she felt that the only real obstacle remaining to her now was leaving the organization that she worked for.
The ‘how’ of it was what troubled her. Her employers didn’t strike her as the kind of people to accept a resignation. She almost laughed to herself at the idea of submitting a two weeks’ notice.
No, in order to say goodbye to her life as an assassin, she’d need to do something a bit more grand than simply walking away. Maybe Konstantin would have ideas.
The hotel he had instructed her to go to was nothing overly fancy. Midrange, very Konstantin in style; old and barely clinging to the former glory of its youth. The aging Russian would have called it ‘distinguished’. Oksana thought of it as being just shy of ‘shabby’.
Their room number was 112. Inside, Oksana was surprised to find that Konstantin had booked himself a suite. He was frugal at the best of times; this came across as a downright splurge of his money. She wondered idly if there was a special occasion for the spending.
Konstantin stood in the doorway, holding the door open for her after she’d knocked to signal her arrival. Oksana walked in and made a show of looking around, taking in the size of the room, whistling in appreciation.
“You have outdone yourself, Konstantin.”
The room was not special at all. A run-of-the-mill suite. They both knew it, and Konstantin frowned at her. “You are as annoying as ever, I see. Spending time with Eve has done nothing to temper your manners, hmm, Villanelle?”
The name was not unfamiliar to her. It had been her name for over two years already. But after spending several days with Eve, it rang strange and hollow in her ears. Still, she didn’t see the point in correcting him. It made no difference to Konstantin what her name was.
“Eve is not so concerned with my manners as you seem to think she should be,” she replied easily.
Konstantin raised an eyebrow. “So you slept with her."
Oksana tried not to look too proud. “I didn’t start it.”
“Hm, of course you didn’t.” He walked around the room to the mini-fridge and pulled out a small bottle of vodka and a soda. He looked questioningly at her but she shook her head ‘no’. He shrugged and poured himself a drink in a soap-streaked hotel glass. “Congratulations.” He raised his glass mockingly and downed it back in one swig, then collapsed into a nearby chair.
“Thank you,” Oksana replied levelly. “I will send you a ‘Save the Date’ as soon as I have the details.”
Konstantin choked on his drink a bit. When he could breathe, he stared at her, red-faced, and said, “Surely, you are joking.”
Oksana didn’t respond to the question of her marrying Eve. She had only meant it as a joke, but she was serious enough about Eve, and she didn’t want to seem anything other than serious about her in front of Konstantin. Instead, she said, “I am going to retire.”
He stared at her for a moment before he sighed and said, “I had thought you might say that.”
Oksana shrugged. “I am ready to move on with my life. Try other things, you know.”
Konstantin shook his head at her. “You have tried other things. You quit once already, when you went off and married that Spanish girl on a whim.”
“Maria was lovely.”
“Maria was meaningless. So what, you will just walk away again? You know they will not let you. They never let you out of their sights the first time.”
Oksana shrugged. “I am going to improvise. Unless you have any ideas?”
Konstantin sighed again, heavily, and reached for another miniature bottle from the fridge. “I have only a few ideas, and none of them are very good, Villanelle.” He mixed himself another drink with the remainder of the soda. By the looks of it, it was going to be rather strong. Oksana arched an eyebrow.
“And will you share these not-so-good ideas with me?”
Konstantin eyed her as he took a sip of his drink, savouring it more this time, drinking it slowly. He swallowed and then said, “One idea is to siphon off their money a little bit at a time, into a secret account, and then I will fly to Cuba. I may take Irina with me.”
Oksana laughed out loud. “You are going to steal their money? Without them noticing? I have no ideas, but having no ideas is better than that idea.” She laughed again and then saw that he was serious. She frowned. “They will catch you and they will kill you.”
“Only if they suspect me,” Konstantin replied. “And I have good reason to think that they won’t. I have been loyal to them for many years, Villanelle. Much longer than you have been working for them. And I know I could prove myself even further, making them suspect me even less before I rob them blind.”
Oksana scoffed. “And how do you plan to earn this trust?”
Konstantin smiled sadly. “By killing you.”
It was silent in the hotel room, and then Oksana laughed hard again. “Now it is your turn to be joking.”
“It is no joke, Villanelle.” Konstantin’s voice had an edge to it that took the mirth right off of her lips. “The order has come down. You are unreliable and to be ‘retired’.”
“For what?!” Her blasé attitude was gone, just like that. He had stripped it away so easily, and she wondered if knowing Eve was making her weak, more emotional. But no, she wouldn’t allow herself to think of it like that. It was not weak, it was simply human. She was, after all, being threatened with death.
Konstantin sighed. “For Rotterdam, and running away, and disappearing only to be caught by Interpol. Not to mention marrying that woman and taking your impromptu trip to Gryzmet.”
Oksana ignored the second half of his statement, exclaiming, “I got away from Interpol!”
“Yes, two months after you botched the Rotterdam job.”
“I did not ‘botch’ it. How was I supposed to know the police would show up at the exact moment I was trying to kill him. That’s never happened before. It was bad luck!”
“But you didn’t report in after the failure-”
“You were with me after the ‘failure’! ”
“And then you stayed away for months-”
“This is bullshit! You stayed away too. Where were you? Where were you!?” She was shouting now, loud and unstoppable, and she didn’t care if someone might hear them through the walls.
“Looking for you! I reported in as soon as I was able to, and I told them I would find you and bring you home. ”
“Bah!” Oksana threw her hands up in the air. “It is not a ‘home’ and you know it!” She jabbed a finger at him. “I saw my home, and it was shit, just like this job is shit.”
Konstantin stood up abruptly. It took Oksana by surprise and she found herself scrambling a few steps backwards in response. His face was dark like a thundercloud. “This job is not shit, this job is your life.” It was his turn to point a finger at her. “This job gave you everything you have. Your money and your clothes. Your fancy apartments and fancy weapons. Where would you be without this job? Rotting in prison back home. ”
At the final word, he did press the point of his finger into her chest. She glared at him coldly. “You know who you sound like?”
“Don’t-” He said it like a warning but she didn’t heed it.
“You remember when you became my handler, hm? You said I was done with her. Free of her. But you are just the same.” She spat the words at him angrily. It felt unfamiliar but good. She did not usually speak to him this way. “You are just the same, using me like I am some kind of tool. It is bullshit. I don’t want it anymore. I want-”
“Enough!” Konstantin shouted over her. “You think I want to kill you? You think this is an easy order to obey? You are…” He trailed off, and she knew he had almost said ‘like family’ but had stopped himself before telling the lie. “...dear to me,” he finished awkwardly.
“Hah. So dear to you that you will kill me, hmm?”
Konstantin sagged back into his seat, tired and defeated. “Well,” he mused humorlessly, “we could always try one of my other ideas.”
Oksana scoffed again. “Is it better or worse than robbing them?”
Konstantin shrugged. “Depends on who you ask.”
Konstantin approached her cautiously as if he thought she might suddenly turn feral. Maybe it was a valid fear; didn’t wild animals become more feral before death, lashing out at anything that approached them? Or were they docile, acceptant, waiting for the end?
“How do you feel?” he asked her.
“That makes sense,” he offered. He stopped about an arm’s length away from her. “I hope this works in the way you want it to.”
“I hope the same for you. Be careful,” she cracked a weak smile, “maybe they will give you a promotion.”
He laughed dryly. “I will turn down whatever they offer me.”
“That will only seem suspicious.”
“What more can they want of me?” He shrugged, and it was tinged with sadness. “I will already have disposed of you.”
She chuckled, and she thought she might taste blood on her tongue. “And very neatly, too.”
“Some might say too neatly.”
“Some might, maybe.” She took a deep breath. “Do it.”
“I still think this part is stupid.”
“I still think your face is stupid.”
Konstantin shrugged as if to say ‘fair enough’, then he struck her with the flat of his palm and sent her tumbling over the side of the bridge.
“You want to do what ?”
Konstantin sighed and prepared to explain himself for the third time. He was still sitting in the same chair as before, an empty glass resting in one of his hands. The mini-fridge was decidedly and unfortunately empty. “I want to fake our deaths.”
“So that way it will be a clean break.”
“And we can both be free to live our lives however we want to.”
“So what are you not getting about this?”
Oksana threw her arms up in the air. “This is your idea now ? We were shipwrecked and missing. Life gave you the perfect opportunity to fake-die, and instead, you ‘reported in’-” she said it in a sing-song, mocking kind of way before continuing, “-and now it will be even harder to do it for real.”
“Yes, well,” he shrugged nonchalantly. It reminded her of herself. She tried not to grind her teeth when he said, “I did not know you would want out so soon.”
“Ugh!” She grunted and turned around in a circle, her fifth or sixth since the conversation about fake-dying had started. “This is stupid. This is the stupidest idea I have ever heard. You are crazy.”
Konstantin frowned and pointed at her angrily. “ You are crazy if you think you can just walk away-”
“Well then give me a better idea!”
And she hated it but he had her stumped, just as she had been before arriving. She had no better ideas. She just had not expected his to be so very shit .
“Fine,” she huffed. “Let’s say I agreed to this-”
“You will because it is the only option-”
“Shh! You don’t think it will look suspicious if we both die at the same time?”
“Yes, well, I only said fake our deaths because I thought it might make you feel better.”
“I told you the order has come down. It makes the most sense for me to kill you and then leave the organization later on my own.”
Oksana mulled it over. “I do not like the idea of you getting the credit for my death.”
Konstantin groaned in exasperation. “ That is what is concerning you, Villanelle?”
“Well, look at you-” she gestured at him disdainfully. “You are old and slow. As if you could get the better of me. As if you could kill me before I killed you.”
Konstantin rolled his eyes. “I am sure I could manage it.”
“Hmph. I doubt it.”
“Don’t test me, Villanelle, or I will kill you right now.”
Silence followed, and then they both broke out into laughter. It eased the tension between them, the tension of planning their respective escapes, and Oksana sat down on the bed as their laughter died down. “Okay, so you are going to kill me.”
“Sounds like it, yes.”
“Well, we will have to make it very believable.”
“You have thoughts?” He leaned forward in his seat, ready to begin planning rather than bickering.
“There should be witnesses. That way it will not seem, what is the word-?”
“Yes, fishy.” She nodded enthusiastically, and Konstantin smiled.
“This is nice, you know,” he said. “I will miss this.”
“Talking like this.”
“We never talk like this.”
Konstantin shrugged. “I will miss it all the same.”
Oksana shrugged back but said nothing. She did not share his sentimentality. After a moment, they set to planning in earnest.
Hélène, a high ranking member in the organization, had called for Konstantin to bring Villanelle to her vacation home in Andorra.
“She wants to watch me kill you there, I think,” he had said after he’d gotten the phone call.
Villanelle, sitting across the room from him at that time, had cocked an eyebrow and said, “Sounds sexy, but she is going to be disappointed.”
Before they’d received that call, the rest of their first day together had been spent planning a way to fake Oksana’s death in London. While Oksana checked into a much nicer hotel for her own room, she met with Konstantin early the next morning to hash out the remaining details. It had been nearly perfect when Hélène had called, informing Konstantin about the meeting. It threw a wrench in their first plan, and they had had to spend the rest of that day re-hashing and re-planning their scheme.
After that day, the new plan was thus:
They would meet with Hélène in four days’ time. They would take the train from London to Paris, and then the next day they’d take a car from Paris to Andorra. Hélène’s vacation home was outside of Santa Coloma. They would take their time driving down there, spreading the trip over the course of three days. Their delay didn’t earn them any favours with Hélène, but Konstantin assured her that it would be less suspicious to Villanelle if they took their time in getting there. Hélène was unimpressed but otherwise didn’t press them to rush. Oksana had the feeling that they were merely pieces on Hélène’s chessboard. She was a pawn, about to be taken by a knight; a delay of a few days was irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.
At one point, Oksana had envisioned moving up the ranks of their organization, becoming a bishop or a rook, or even a queen, but now all she longed for was a release from the game. She could attribute some of it to Eve, of course, and her desire to build a life together, even if she’d never told Eve about those intentions. But the fact of the matter was that the major shift in her motivations had come from her visit to Gryzmet. Killing her mother, sparing her brothers, it had taken a lot out of her, but it had also taken something more specific and concrete than just her energy; it had sapped her of her enjoyment of killing.
She’d killed so many people. She wanted the death of her mother to be the last one done by her own hand.
Although, if things didn’t go well in Santa Coloma, she could add her own death to the list, and be done with it.
Travelling with Konstantin went surprisingly well. Sure, she annoyed the shit out of him as much as possible, so much so that he said that she was worse than his own daughter, but in reality, she thought he rather enjoyed it.
From Paris, they drove south. Well, Konstantin did the driving since he refused to let Oksana behind the wheel. Irina had once told him about a time when the assassin had taken her driving, illegally, and he’d nearly had a heart attack thinking about Villanelle instructing his little girl on how to drive.
They stopped in Bourges and sidetracked to Lyon. Just before Perpignan they turned inland and drove towards the mountains, the natural land border between France and Spain. Nestled within those mountains was Andorra, but they crossed into Spain first and approached the micro-state from the south. Santa Coloma was nearer to the Spanish border, and Hélène’s home was nestled somewhere along the town’s southwestern edge, near the Gran Valira, Andorra’s largest river.
Driving through the mountains had Oksana feeling strangely claustrophobic. She’d begun to appreciate the wide-open spaces of Eve’s cliffside home; endless fields and rolling hills and scattered trees. The mountains were beautiful but enclosing; she felt boxed in, trapped by their size and the plan she and Konstantin were about to undertake.
Before long, they reached the outskirts of Santa Coloma, and Konstantin turned off the main highway and onto a narrow, winding road. He turned to look at her from the driver’s seat.
“You are sure you are ready for this?”
Oksana shrugged, doing her best to hide the mounting tension climbing upwards along her spine. “As ready as I need to be.”
Konstantin accepted her response wordlessly, nodding once before turning back to the road. “Good luck, Villanelle.”
“Eve calls me ‘Oksana’.”
Konstantin grunted. “I am not Eve.”
Oksana laughed once, a single, loud guffaw. “Yes, and thank god for that.”
She was glad that the bridge was not overly tall. Tall enough for it to hurt when she hit the water, sure, but not guaranteed to kill her outright. It had been a happy coincidence that Hélène had a vacation home near a river that ran relatively deep.
Oksana thought about Hélène as she fell towards the water. In a different universe, she might’ve tried to seduce her instead of shooting her. But her heart belonged to Eve, and her thoughts strayed to the homestead. She wanted to remember as much of Eve as possible before her brush with death.
By the feel of it, though, she thought it might be more than just a brush. More than a gentle caress. She was lucky enough to land back-first into the water, and there was nothing gentle in the way that her body hit the river.
It welcomed her into its embrace as she sank beneath its surface. She thought about the storm that had washed her ashore on Eve’s oyster rack. She didn’t think about it often, there was no point. She’d survived and moved on. But in the cold waters of the Gran Valira, her blood mixing with the river around her, she thought about water and storms and family and Eve. A series of vignettes, a macabre display. And then the world faded to black.
She was cold. Really cold. She thought she might be shivering, and she imagined that she might be able to hear the sound of her teeth chattering if a different noise hadn’t caught her attention instead.
Someone was humming. Behind her, or above her? She hadn’t opened her eyes yet. She wasn’t really sure if she wanted to. What wasn’t cold was sore, and opening her eyes risked inviting a different kind of pain into the equation. She imagined bright lights and a pounding headache. Why not lay in the darkness for a little while longer?
Except for that damn humming. It was quiet and cheerful, but loud enough to annoy her. It came closer towards her, and she heard the clatter of stones shifting nearby as the owner of the incessant humming moved towards her body.
That drew her attention to where she really didn’t want it: onto herself. Thinking about her body seemed to strike sparks along every nerve, and pain blossomed shortly after. Most of it was a dull pain, an aching pain, but in some places, the pain was sharper. Well-defined, like the edge of a knife.
And still, her companion kept on humming. She tried to ignore the sensations of her groaning muscles and to focus on the melody instead. It was still annoying, to be sure, but the proximity of the sound made her realize something more than the nuisance of it: the tune was vaguely familiar.
She groaned loudly, then she tested out her voice by grunting, “If you’re going to hum, can’t you hum something else? I hate that song.”
The humming stopped. And then,
“I forgot that you hated it.”
Oksana forced herself to sit up but she kept her eyes shut tight. Without the humming sound to distract her, the pain was much worse. Most notably, her entire abdomen was sore and unhappy. She was glad Konstantin hadn’t killed her but did he have to shoot her somewhere so incredibly inconvenient.
She pushed her tongue around her mouth. It tasted dry, like sawdust. “I hate it because it reminds me of her. ” And she forced herself to open her eyes.
She was on the shore of the Gran Valira, on a rocky beach overshadowed by trees. The flowing river made a pleasant noise in the background. She found it to be much nicer than the humming from earlier.
As if reading her mind, her companion said, “It reminds you of Mother, you mean?”
Oksana sighed and turned to look at the source of the voice.
A short distance away, her brother, Pyotr, sat squatting on his heels. He looked just the same as he had back in mother Russia, back in Gryzmet, back in the house Oksana had eventually burned to the ground. She wanted to shoot him a withering stare, but she was weak and tired and she owed him at least some part of her life, so she settled for an indifferent kind of gaze.
“Yes,” she replied, and suddenly she was too exhausted to sit up any longer. She slumped back onto the rocks and felt her eyes drifting shut with a heavy, unconquerable weight.
“Yes,” she repeated, already half-unconscious again. “it reminds me of Mama.”
And for the second time that day, the world drifted into darkness around her.
the whole point of this chapter was to be dramatic and extra as fuck, dont @ me.
want to know the details of what happened with Helene? IT WILL BE EXPLAINED NEXT TIME, along with other mysteries such as WHERE THE FUCK PYOTR COME FROM
Chapter 21: Adrift
SO SORRY for the impromptu hiatus, y'all. I had surgery a few weeks ago and my writing motivation plummeted.
Originally I had only planned one chapter of Oksana POV but the whole Faking Your Own Death thing sort of got away from me. Pls enjoy.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Oksana awoke to the sound of Pyotr muttering under his breath. No humming this time. She had the faint sensation of the world moving around her, and she watched with hazy attention as green trees and mountain slopes sped across the window of her vision. She was on her back and it was uncomfortable. And then it was sore. And then it was painful, and her body tried to pull her back into the comfort of unconsciousness.
She groaned, low and feral, wincing as she tried to sit up a bit. Pain lanced through her immediately, and her vision dotted with black. She collapsed backwards. “Ow.”
From somewhere to her right she heard Pyotr speaking to her. “Don’t move, sister.”
She was never much for obedience, especially toward her brother, but she listened, just this once, and stayed put where she was. She registered that she was in a car and the landscape speeding by was doing so from the other side of the window. She lay across the backseat, uncomfortable and bloody.
So bloody, she noticed it now. Why hadn’t it struck her before?
“Where are you taking me?”
“La Seu d’Urgell.” She saw movement from the front seat, and Pyotr turned briefly to face her. “It is not far, I promise.”
He turned back to face the road and swerved suddenly as if he had drifted into the oncoming lane. The motion jostled her in the backseat, and the burst of pain in her stomach made her wince and curse loudly. “Don’t be so careless!”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Pyotr murmured from the front.
Oksana closed her eyes and let the pain wash over her, cover her, smother her like a blanket. It hurt like a bitch. “Don’t let me die,” she said, her voice suddenly growing weak.
“I won’t, Oksana. I won’t.”
She didn’t have anything more to say, in that moment. She grit her teeth and let Pyotr drive, and every bump and every swerve hurt like being shot all over again. Eventually, she passed out, and the world was lost in darkness.
Her memory was foggy at best, nonexistent at worst when it came to the events that followed. She fell in and out of consciousness again and again, and the pieces she remembered told a disjointed story. She saw white walls and fluorescent lights. People above her looking down. Voices. Something poking into her arm. Blackness, then, awake again and Pyotr’s voice speaking with someone else. Movement around her, movement of her body from one bed to another. Transfer.
What wasn’t white rooms or black sleep was a thick grey fog, hanging over her like a shroud, clouding her waking moments with its indifference and its opacity.
And then, the fog lifted, and much to her annoyance, as much of it as she could muster in her weakened state, she awoke once again to the sound of that god awful humming. She opened her eyes slowly.
She was in a hospital, clearly. Machines beeped gently around her, monitoring her heart and her oxygen and what else, she wasn’t sure. The low din of the room slowly came to her, other machines monitoring other patients, no doubt laying in beds scattered around her own. Aside from the machines, though, it was strangely silent. She might’ve looked around to get a sense of her surroundings, but then she remembered what had woken her up in the first place.
She looked to her left. She was in a corner bed, and a small window in the wall showed her blackness and city lights; it was night time. Sitting in a low chair next to the wall was Pyotr, his eyes closed and his head bowed. She opened her mouth to speak, and her voice cracked with disuse.
Her brother looked up and, when he realized she was awake, broke into a wide grin. “You are finally awake.”
She might’ve asked how long it had been since the Gran Valira, or whether they were still in Andorra, but what she found herself saying instead was, “I told you I hated that song.”
If Pyotr was surprised, he hardly showed it. Maybe rescuing his sister from bleeding out in a river had made him a sturdier man. “She taught it to us when we were so little. I don’t know why I can’t forget it after all this time.”
Oksana blinked slowly, her body threatening to pull her back into a dreamless sleep. But she’d slept so much already, it seemed. She wanted to be awake, at least for a little while. And she didn’t want to talk about their mother anymore. “If I had known you were going to keep bringing her up, I would have rather you left me for dead in the river.”
Pyotr gazed at her oddly, a mix of brotherly affection and an aloofness reserved for strangers. “Like you left Mother for dead back home?”
She had not expected him to be so blunt. She opened her mouth to form the words but Pyotr spoke first. “So, I am guessing you are not a pilot.”
He spoke calmly but Oksana thought she saw playfulness in his eyes. It soothed an anxiety inside herself that she hadn’t realized needed soothing. She sighed, and it felt like relief.
“No,” she told him. “I am not a pilot. I am not much of anything anymore.” She shifted as best she could in the hospital bed, and she registered the scratchy sheets against her bare feet. How long had it been now since she’d slept in silks?
Pyotr’s voice pulled her from her thoughts. “You are my sister.”
She looked up and rolled her eyes at him, not willing to admit that the comment had warmed her heart. “Fine, I am that.”
Her brother nodded once, resolutely, as if it had settled some matter between them, and then he continued, “My sister, you are now. What were you before?”
Oksana shrugged. “It’s a long story.” She looked out the window again. “Where are we?"
“Barcelona,” her brother replied, before gesturing at her stomach. “You are not going anywhere in a hurry.”
She glanced down at the hospital covers laying over her body. Peeking out from one side were the lines of her IV. “No, I suppose I am not.” She gathered what little strength she had and held it in her chest, and then she told him almost everything.
She sped through the story of much of her early days of being an assassin; the brutal training, her first kills, the easy money. Easy, to her, of course, acting like the monster her mother had always led her to believe that she was. She told Pyotr all of those details in a matter of a few minutes, making years of her life pass by like speeding cars. She made him lean close to her so that she could whisper those details quietly like the secrets they were. Then she told him about Rotterdam, somewhat, without giving him too many specifics. She recounted the stormy weather that had led her and Konstantin astray, and he interrupted her then for the first time.
“You took a yacht into the open ocean?”
“We didn’t mean to. We are not experienced sailors, you know. We got a little carried away- I got a little carried away, being captain and trying to get away from the authorities. It happens, okay, when you live like I do… did. Psh.” She waved her hand dismissively then, although it was a weak and ineffective gesture. Her body was weaker than she could ever remember. She hated it. “Do you want to hear the rest of the story or not?”
Pyotr nodded his head and she carried on. She told him about meeting Eve, about staying with her for those lovely, magical weeks. She didn’t describe them like that, of course. She didn’t want to appear soft in front of him just yet. She went on to describe how she’d fled from the homestead and eluded Interpol, only to go back to Eve for a short while before leaving again.
And then she told him about her plan with Konstantin. How they’d had their meeting with Hélène and how it had ended up with her bleeding out in the waters of the Gran Valira.
“Konstantin suggested a drive through the countryside, and when Hélène agreed, we got into the car and drove. She wanted him to kill me, and she wanted to watch. She thought he was going to take us someplace where he could do that. I was in the back with her, Konstantin was driving. He and I had planned it out before, you know. When we got to the bridge, I pulled out a knife and stabbed her. I think she was so confident of her place in that organization, she could not believe anyone else was a real threat.”
“So, you stabbed her, and then?” Pyotr was leaning forward in his seat, listening eagerly. To him, it may as well have been an action movie, and she, James Bond.
“Konstantin swerved in ‘surprise’ and drove us into the barricade. Then he turned from the driver’s seat and shot me as if it were a knee-jerk reaction. I only stabbed Hélène in the shoulder, so she was conscious but, well,” Oksana shrugged. “She was unhappy. Konstantin pulled me out of the car then and I struggled as best I could, to make it believable, you know. It hurt, the bullet-”
At that, she found her fingers searching for the wound in her stomach. She’d nearly forgotten it, really, but now a part of her longed to tear back the blankets and inspect it, even if it was buried under bandages and gauze. She ignored the urge and continued on.
“-He let me stand, sort of, against the barrier. He wanted to make sure Hélène could see, from the back of the car, and then he shoved me over the side of the bridge.”
She fell silent, and a minute or two passed before Pyotr spoke up. “It is amazing that that worked, you know. So many places where that could have gone wrong.”
“Maybe, but it did not. And now I am here, with you.”
“You are lucky we were in Barcelona,” Pyotr replied. “Bor’ka wanted to see Elton John, but we could have done that in London or Paris or any other city. You are lucky we chose to visit Spain.”
Oksana smiled to herself; half in contentment at hearing that Bor’ka had got his wish of seeing Elton, something he had confided in her when she had visited Gryzmet, and half in satisfaction that her influence on him had worked so well. Gently, she replied, “And who do you think gave him the idea to go to Spain, then, of all those places?”
Pyotr was silent a moment before his mouth split into a wide grin and he laughed loudly. Then, remembering where he was, he stopped abruptly and returned to whispering, but amusement still shone in his eyes. “I don’t believe it. Do you always dance with the devil?”
Oksana shook her head. “You know I do not dance.”
“How did you do it, then?”
She shrugged nonchalantly. “I sent him a postcard and told him to go there. ‘That is where Elton will be best’, I said.”
Pyotr shook his head in disbelief. “And you knew I would come here to help you when you asked since we were already somewhat nearby. You told me that you would need my help in Andorra. You are my sister, of course I would come.” He sat back and looked at her with wide eyes. “Is there anyone you don’t have wrapped around your finger, sister?”
He asked it lightly, jokingly, with no hint of malice. Before she could stop herself, Oksana replied, “Mother.”
Pyotr looked at her long and hard, his lightheartedness suddenly gone. He glanced out the window briefly before looking back to her again. “I know why you did what you did. And I won’t pretend that she was a saint. But she was still my mother. And Bor’ka’s. I love you, sister, but I don’t know that we are ready to forget all of that."
“I did not expect you to. I won’t bother you again. I did not think you would even stay at the hospital, really.”
“-That is not-”
“It is for the best for a little while anyway,” she continued, speaking over him, before adding, “Just send for me when you run out of money. I’ll help you out.”
A moment of silence passed between them, and then Pyotr got up from his seat and came over to the bed. He put his hand over hers. “We are family,” he said gruffly. “And we always will be.”
She had no response to that. They stayed like that in silence, and she let him comfort her as good brothers do.
Pyotr filled in the holes in her memory the next day. He left in the night after she was asleep again and returned to the hospital just after noon the following day. He had gone to check up on Bor’ka, to make sure the young boy wasn’t getting into trouble without supervision.
When he returned to Oksana’s bedside, he recounted to her the story of the past couple of days. They had arrived at the hospital in La Seu d’Urgell and Oksana had immediately been taken into emergency and the OR, where doctors had removed the bullet from her stomach and stitched her up. The damage to her internal organs, compounded by the loss of so much blood, required her to be in ICU, which the small hospital couldn’t provide. She’d then been transferred to Barcelona and sent to ICU in the hospital there, where she was now recovering nicely.
All in all, it hadn’t even been two full days since Konstantin had shot her. Time flowed differently on the precipice of death, she supposed.
Pyotr had given her name as Oksana Grigoryevich, using their stepfather’s last name, and had said that the shooting was a result of mistaken identity, that the shooter must have thought she was someone else and had opened fire on her by mistake. Oksana wasn’t sure how much of that anyone would believe, but so far no one had come to interrogate her and that seemed like a good enough sign. Doctors and nurses came by to check on her, and while some regarded her story with suspicion it deserved, mostly they kept to the task of nursing her back to health.
Health. She’d never really given it much thought. She was awarded ignorance by her youth, and even though she had killed people for a living, her own physical health had never much seemed a concern. Sure, bullets and knives and the like had inflicted injury, but she’d never given much attention to the dangers of illness.
That was all about to change. It was three days before she knew something was definitely wrong. A general feeling of being unwell would be natural after the trauma of a gunshot, wouldn’t it? And yet, on the third day, she awoke with a fever. Her heart rate quickened, her breathing shallowed. She felt like shit; worse than the pain from the gunshot, the feeling permeated her entire body. A nurse came by and took her blood. Later in the day, when Pyotr was visiting her again, a doctor came in and told her the news.
In heavily accented English, he told her, “You have an infection.”
“What?” she asked. At the same time, Pyotr spoke up, ”What does that mean?”
“It is sepsis, for now. We will get you on different antibiotics, different medications, and try to make sure it does not progress to septic shock.”
Pyotr swore under his breath before raising his voice. “You need to do more!”
Oksana lay there dumbfounded. It seemed suddenly as though the doctor were speaking from far away. Maybe she was more feverish than she thought.
In all her days of killing people, she’d never considered blood poisoning as a possible cause of her own death. She only faintly registered the sounds of her brother speaking harshly to the doctor.
“We’ll do everything we can,” the doctor was saying. “New antibiotics, medications for blood pressure and clotting. Sedatives for her pain, and an increase to her intravenous fluids. If needed, oxygen, and if she gets worse, possible use of a ventilator. We have options available to us depending on how she responds to these initial treatments.”
Pyotr ran his hands through his hair. “It’s not enough, we can’t- I got her here as fast as I could!”
Oksana was pulled from her thoughts then. “It’s okay, Pyotr. Just go punch a couch if you need to. I‘ll be fine.” She tried to sound lighthearted, but a growing anxiety mixed with the sickness inside her. She thought she could feel the infection spreading like tar in her veins.
She’d never felt further from fine in her life. To be shot was one thing, but this… the threat of a slow and agonizing downward spiral. Pain and fever dreams and chills. The slow failure of her body. It scared her more than any threat of harm ever had. The only thing that frightened her more was the thought of losing Eve.
It was a month now that she’d been away. She made herself remember Eve; her hair, her cheekbones, the set of her lips. Her bed, her couch, the shower where they’d touched each other with a fire unfettered by the water all around them. Eve was waiting for her, she knew. And she was powerless to return, unsure of whether she would even make it through.
The doctor seemed to read her silence as a creeping panic. He was not entirely wrong. “I know this may be frightening news. It is serious, of course, but we will do the absolute best that we can. It is still early.”
It was not exactly comforting, even though she knew he was trying. She had never been the most patient person. She felt restless, suddenly, and she longed to get up from the bed. When she tried to sit up and do so, the doctor stepped forward and ushered her to lay back down.
“Don’t do that, please. You need to rest.” He glanced over at Pyotr as if looking for his help in convincing her.
“I can’t- I have to-”
Something was pulling her down. She looked and saw the lines of her IV caught around the long, folded-down handle along the side of her bed. She felt an unfamiliar feeling in her throat and the trickle of something cold down her neck. A bead of sweat, one of several, she felt them dampen her temples and the small of her back.
She tried to rise from the bed again, her IV already forgotten, and once again felt the tugging at her wrist of the tangled lines.
“I have to go- you don’t-”
She tried to say more, but breathing was hard, and her lungs felt closed against the air she tried to inhale. She tried again to push up from the bed, but her body was weak, so weak. Pyotr came up beside her, pressing his hand against her shoulder. It was a gesture of comfort as much as it was intended to hold her down.
“Oksana, stop.” Worry was etched into his voice like writings carved into walls. It told a story she wasn’t willing to hear: that she would be going nowhere for a while, that the hospital would be her home for a bit longer yet.
She hadn’t heard the doctor call for a nurse, nor his order for a sedative. Her panic made the noise of the room muffled, her head spun from a combination of anxiety and infection. A nurse came in and administered the sedative through her IV. She felt Pyotr’s hand brush some of her hair away from her face. His skin was cold and clammy, or was it hers?
She felt a rising tide of exhaustion and lethargy sweep against her, battling with the roiling waves of her panic and agitation. It reminded her, in a feverish haze, of being lost at sea. Powerless to the rise and fall of the water, praying to one day find the shore.
With the shore had come Eve. Eve. The name was important, but the face was beyond her reach. She felt her eyes close. Her brain grew muddy. She clung to the name Eve, and all its elusive meanings, and held fast to them like driftwood in an unforgiving sea.
Eve woke up to the sounds of wind and rain against her windows. A late summer storm, or would it be early autumn? She supposed the turn of the season wasn’t technically for a few more weeks. Late summer, then.
She rolled over and reached for her phone on the bedside table. Illuminated, it read 4:33 am. She sighed and rolled back to the centre of the bed. It wasn’t long before her thoughts strayed to Oksana. They always did, this time of night.
A little over a month without her, now. Eve had thought that the worry would kill her, but she’d grown accustomed to it surprisingly fast. She had her moments, of course, of panic and anxiety, when she could convince herself that Oksana was dead, somewhere where no one could find her. Maybe she’d been wrong to trust Konstantin. Maybe Konstantin didn’t know she was dead. Maybe their mysterious organization had decided to kill them both. It was all too easy to slip into an endless cycle of worry. Like a whirlpool tugging her downwards, waiting for her to give up and sink.
She kept on hoping though, and some things became easier. When she missed Oksana’s company, she would watch a movie and remember her enthusiastic remarks. When she missed Oksana’s body, she would lay in her bed and remember their few days together, and sometimes she would touch herself to the memory and gain a semblance of the pleasure she'd shared with the younger woman. When she missed Oksana’s smile, she would visit Molly. That had turned out to be the most calming thing of all.
Molly’s pregnancy wasn’t halfway done yet, but already she required more of Eve’s attention. In addition to her usual needs, Eve kept her company and checked her belly and udders often. She spoke to her and soothed her, and she’d already accepted that it was more for herself than it was for the goat. She refused to feel embarrassed, though. If it helped, it helped, and that was that.
Eve rolled over on to her side and away from the windows. She listened to the patter of rain against the glass and wind blowing against the roof. She thought again of what Oksana had told her.
You will either receive me at your door, or Konstantin, and until you see one of us, you know at least that I am still in the process of getting out.
Eve sighed and pulled her covers more snugly around herself. Oksana had not come, but Konstantin had not come yet either. It was a thin thread of hope to hang on to, but it was really all that she had. She clung to it as tightly as she could, praying some storm wouldn’t whisk it away.
thank you for reading, and for sticking with me so far
Chapter 22: Sea Breeze
Hey y'all, september been hella busy so far so I haven't been able to post regularly but I swear I’m gonna finish this fic.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
One month later...
Eve sat in her favourite chair on the front porch, eyes trained on the blue line of the horizon even as her thoughts were miles away. The sun had long since risen but she was in no hurry to start her day. She’d had another dream about Oksana the night before. Nothing substantial, nothing meaningful, just another wispy vision of the woman she longed to see.
For weeks, she often wondered how Oksana might return to her. Her first arrival had been on the coattails of a storm; abrupt, unexpected, and mysterious. Her second arrival had been on the brink of a storm; hoped for and yet unbelievable in its existence. How would Oksana return to her the third time, assuming she returned at all?
Would she appear suddenly at Eve’s doorstep, absent one moment and present the next, in all her young and radiant glory? Would she be haggard, exhausted from weeks on the run? Would she be changed, or the same? Eve would often pass the time imagining scenarios in her mind’s eye, envisioning that shining moment, that crescendo of all they’d been working towards.
And what came after that, exactly?
Eve sometimes wondered if maybe they hadn’t thought things through. Oksana would return, hopefully, and then they would... what? Live on the cliffside together until the end of their days? Grow vegetables and harvest oysters and raise goats?
Eve couldn’t see it for Oksana. The woman was young and vibrant and invulnerable in her youth. She’d seen more places than Eve; met more people, experienced more excitement. Oksana was a beacon of vitality. Eve, on the other hand, was a runaway-turned-hermit, a madwoman in exile living out her days on an isolated coast. No man is an island, but Eve was a woman held only tenuously to shore. She was a peninsula breaching the sea, and, given enough time, the last bridge to land would be eroded away.
Was that kind of life all she had to offer?
The sound of a bleating goat pulled her out of her dismal thoughts. It wasn’t like her to fall prey to insecurity, especially insecurity about the life she’d chosen for herself at the homestead. Two months without sight or sound of Oksana, however, had her mind pulling demons out of rarely-visited alcoves, corners of herself that had never caused problems before. At least, not for a while.
She pushed herself up out of the rocking chair, the blanket that had been draped around her shoulders falling loosely onto the wood behind her. She collected her coffee mug and let herself back into the house, kicking off her slippers before padding to the back door and pulling on her boots. Molly called from the pen. Eve smiled and stepped back outside, her moment of self doubt already forgotten.
Summer was quickly fading into autumn. Days that had once been hot and sunny were growing cloudier and cooler. Wintertime at her coastal home didn’t come with the threat of much snow. Rain, yes, and an unpleasant drop in temperature that had her spending most of her time indoors. The coldest and rainiest winter days made her wonder why she hadn’t decided to live in isolation someplace tropical instead. Cuba, maybe.
She had begun to harvest the last of her vegetables as morning dew threatened to turn to creeping frost. Not for the first time she wondered about building a greenhouse. Maybe next year, she told herself, as she’d told herself nearly every autumn before.
Walking from the back door to the pen, Eve called out a greeting to Molly in the crisp morning air. The ground, once muddy, was hard-packed under her feet from the overnight chill. Molly bleated back at her from the warmth of her shelter, a small wooden building in the back of her pen. Eve unlocked the gate and strolled in. She spent some time looking over Molly’s coat and hooves before checking her belly and udders. The pregnant goat was uncooperative that morning, shying away or downright headbutting Eve’s thigh. After the third such headbutt, Eve sighed and backed away, crouching down to stare into Molly’s eyes from a distance as the goat watched her warily.
“Why don’t you like me?”
No response. As much as Eve had come to find comfort in spending time with Molly, some days the goat would resist against Eve’s touch and Eve would be forced to simply back away and stare. Those were the days Eve wound up talking more than anything, confiding in Molly all the whirling thoughts on her mind.
“You know, Molls, I’ve been thinking...”
It wasn’t often that she called her ‘Molls’, the ridiculous nickname Oksana had given her, but occasionally it just happened to slip out. It was silly, but it was endearing too.
“-I’ve spent so much time thinking about her, if and when and how she’ll come back, I haven’t thought much about anything beyond that. What happens next? She’s not the type to stay in one place. She is the kind of woman who thrives on change and unpredictability. I haven’t been unpredictable since... since Bill. Since his trial and that pen and packing my entire life up and moving out here.”
At the mention of Bill, Molly cocked her head and inched closer. Not that she recognized the name, of course, but maybe it was the cadence of Eve’s voice, its gentle honesty. Or maybe Bill was watching, somewhere, and exerting his otherworldly influence over the goat. The thought made Eve smile.
“Even before that, though,” she continued, “I was never much of a spontaneous person. I mean, I married Niko for god’s sake. He was charming and romantic and I was not what his family wanted. I guess that was exciting?” Eve chuckled mirthlessly to herself. “Where would I be if I hadn’t married that man?”
Molly came closer and nudged Eve’s hand with her head. Eve took it as permission granted to pet her, and let her fingers run through the coarse hairs of Molly’s coat before scratching fondly behind her ears.
“Not that he was the source of all my problems, but looking back at it all... well, it was a pretty boring life, wasn’t it?”
Molly snorted softly.
“Right, I guess you weren’t there to see it.”
Eve sat with Molly for a few minutes longer before she pushed herself up and, giving the goat a parting pat on the head, made her way back to the house. It was shaping up to be a cooler day with the sun trapped behind a thick blanket of light grey clouds. There was no threat of a storm, though. It was dreary but pleasant, and Eve took in a large breath of fresh air before heading inside.
Her days weren’t quite as busy as they had once been. With Oksana’s help earlier in the summer, most of the things that had needed repairing were fixed. She had fewer things to do in the garden, too, and she found her days growing gradually emptier. Still, she went down to the oyster racks as frequently as possible. Yet with every visit, she found that the racks were moored securely, the oysters were growing nicely, and there was a distinct lack of castaways clinging to the wooden beams.
Eve remembered that day, months ago, when Oksana had washed ashore. Well, nearly ashore. She could hardly remember what her life had been like before Oksana had consumed such a portion of it.
Shaking her head to herself as she wandered into the kitchen, Eve made a mental note to write up a quick grocery list for later. Her trips into town tended to become more frequent as winter approached. She normally went for supplies, of course, but with every trip lately she would wander idly by the police station, eyes glancing to see if any new posters had been placed in the windows. So far she’d seen none. She thought about popping in, once or twice, and asking, but common sense told her that it would be both stupid and futile. It would only look suspicious and they wouldn’t tell anything to a passing civilian anyway. So, she steeled herself to wait and hope and fantasize about the day that Oksana might come home.
Having checked on Molly and with not much else to do that morning, Eve poured herself another mug of her atrociously brewed coffee and found herself longing for a walk along the cliffs. She shrugged into her blue nylon rain jacket. Underneath, her pyjama pants and tattered long sleeve shirt would have to do, and then she slipped on a pair of worn-out running shoes. Coffee mug in hand, she stepped back out onto the porch and made her way toward the cliffside.
The day was shaping up to be a cool one, the clouds overhead still blocking out the sun. As she walked to the cliff’s edge, Eve eyed the world around her. It was beautiful, despite the gloomy sky. In fact, she found the dark clouds enchanting, the way their swirls and billows of grey met the harsh lines and curls of the blue water below. And in front of her, a quickly shrinking strip of green, the wavy, windswept grass that stopped abruptly at the edge of the cliffs.
Eve stopped and let herself take it all in; the sights and the sounds, the taste of humidity mingled with salt. It calmed her, maybe even more than Molly did, even if it still stirred that strange itch inside her, that desire to move closer and peer down over the edge. Of course, she still remembered that night in the rain when she’d nearly fallen. She remembered the fear and the panic, but the adrenaline and the excitement too. The impulsive recklessness of it all.
She glanced around herself absently even though she knew no one else was there. Then she took several steps forwards and found herself in her familiar place: seven or eight steps from the edge.
It was foolish and rash, of course, to be tempting death a second time. But there was no storm, no rain; no howling wind to harass her. The ground was certainly more secure than it had been that night, at least in some places. She scanned and found the spot where the cliff had crumbled away beneath her.
Not there, she told herself as she crept another step closer to the edge. She didn’t want to die. She just wanted to feel... powerful and afraid at the same time. She thought about the ghosts of the past and about the doubts that had come to haunt her that morning.
Another step closer, and then another. Eve could clearly hear the waves crashing against the cliff face beneath her. The wind was stronger near the drop-off. Her hair whipped back behind her, curling and twisting in the sea breeze. One more step forward and then she stood at the very precipice of the cliff. She looked down.
Vertigo struck her suddenly and she had to fight not to wobble where she stood. She watched the blue and white water far, far below. She thought about falling off, jumping off; a ‘66 Ford Thunderbird careening over the edge. Her heart raced and her blood rushed. If she had paused to look at her hands she would’ve found them shaking.
Instead, Eve took a long look at the abyss stretched below her. Uncontrollable and free, it reminded her of a woman. It reminded her of herself. A woman she might’ve been. A version of herself long since buried, longing to be unearthed.
She closed her eyes and breathed slowly, before stepping back and looking to the sky. She smiled. She knew what she wanted.
It was only two days later that Eve heard the sound of tires crunching on the dirt road out front. She was in the kitchen washing dishes when she heard the noise. Distant at first, but obviously headed her way. Out in the middle of nowhere, there weren’t many other places a car could go. She glanced up from the sink and looked out the kitchen window. A small cloud of dust marked the path of the vehicle as it trundled steadily towards the house. It was a plain silver sedan, inconspicuous and unremarkable. Eve couldn’t make out the driver.
A fluttering kind of anxiety found its way into her gut. She dried off her hands with a nearby towel and pressed them flat against her stomach as she watched the car approach. Before long it would be at her makeshift driveway, the place where the country lane ended and her residential road began, marked only by a lazy red mailbox. Otherwise, the road stayed the same, but anyone who continued driving past that mailbox was obviously intending to reach the house.
Sure enough, the silver car continued on its way to the homestead, and Eve swore under her breath as she moved away from the kitchen sink and towards the front door. She was in an old pair of yoga pants and an oversized sweater. Her hair was pulled into a messy bun. She was having trouble remembering whether or not she had brushed her teeth that morning. She was jittery, suddenly, and it was all because of the approaching car.
Trying to push her fretful thoughts from her mind, she jammed her feet hurriedly into her sneakers and pushed through the door in a rush. The car was close now, pulling up to the front, and Eve thought she could see the shape of a man in the driver’s seat. She tried not to let that small detail throw her into a complete panic.
About ten metres away from her, the car stopped abruptly. Eve watched a young man in his late twenties exit. He gave her a curious glance but otherwise didn’t say anything, turning his attention instead to the passenger side. He walked around the car and opened the door before learning inwards and helping the passenger out. Eve watched as, with a great deal of assistance from the man, Oksana rose weakly out of the car.
She was changed from the last time Eve had seen her. They had parted ways on a sunny morning, a glow of affection surrounding them both. Oksana had smiled at her so beautifully. Eve watched as the same woman, two months later, winced as she leaned against the doorframe of the car for support while the man repositioned his arm around her waist. Oksana’s hair was flowing loosely, if lacklustre, and she looked worn out as if she’d been on a long journey. A part of Eve wanted to run to her, to call out, to sprint into her arms like the reunion of two lovers in a romantic movie, but shock and trepidation held her back. Clearly something had happened while Oksana had been away.
Instead of running, Eve held back. She waited on the bottom step of the porch. As soon as she was upright and holding steadily to the man next to her, Oksana looked up and met her gaze. Eve couldn’t decipher much, but she could see relief and the easing of a long-held tension around Oksana’s eyes. And then the ghost of a smile.
“Look, Pyotr. She is happy to see me.”
Eve hadn’t even realized that she herself had been smiling too. She would’ve blushed if she hadn’t been so distracted by the man Oksana was hanging on to. They began shuffling their way towards Eve, and Eve heard the man reply, “You’re right, sister. Always right.”
It took a few moments for them to reach the steps of the porch. Eve thought she should step forward and offer help but when she made to move, Oksana waved her away in a motion that said ‘I can do this’. Eve let her and stood where she was, waiting.
She had a moment to think about all the things she could be doing to Oksana in that moment, rather than standing still. Touching her, holding her, kissing her. Running her hands all over her to make sure she was real. Caressing her cheek and her jaw and trailing her fingers through her hair. Eve forced herself to take a deep breath. There would be time for all of that later, after the long-awaited explanation of Oksana’s absence. Eve wanted- no, needed to know everything that had happened.
Finally, they made it to the bottom of the porch. Oksana looked up at Eve and tried to stand a little straighter, the man’s- Pyotr, Eve heard him called- eyes darted back and forth between the two women. “Should I-”
Before he could finish his question, Eve cut him off. “Are you alright?”
She was staring at Oksana, hardly daring to believe that she really was standing there, just a few steps away. More than anything, she wanted to reach out and touch her.
“Yes,” Oksana replied, calm and certain and putting Eve at ease. “It is good to see you, Eve.”
Eve, having received confirmation that the younger woman was, in fact, okay, stepped forward to wrap her in a tight embrace. Before she could get to her, however, Pyotr held his arm up in protest, effectively blocking her path.
“Oh, uh, please wait. She has to take it easy.”
“I’m fine, Pyotr,” Oksana interjected. Still, her brother continued.
“I watched you dance with death for weeks in that hospital. I am not about to let you go undoing all your hard work with a careless slip or fall.”
Oksana rolled her eyes and made some snarky remark to the man, but Eve was no longer listening. She was wrapped up in the news that Oksana had been in a hospital for weeks, and very ill, by the sounds of it. She felt panic well up in her throat and she fought to control it, to remind herself that Oksana was okay, that she was standing right in front of her at that very moment.
“What happened to you?” she blurted out.
Oksana turned from chastising Pyotr and heaved a heavy sigh. “It is a long story, Eve, and I will tell you everything. Can we get inside first? I still get lightheaded if I stand for too long.”
“Oh- oh, yeah, come in.” Eve stepped aside to let Oksana and Pyotr by, but the man stayed rooted at the foot of the stairs.
“I think this is where we part ways, sister. I have to make sure that Bor’ka stays out of trouble.”
Oksana looked at him and nodded knowingly, before flashing a smile. “I owe you one.”
“Hm,” Pyotr grunted good-naturedly. “One or two or five, sure.”
Oksana swatted her arm at him before turning back to Eve and holding her other hand up in invitation. “Care to help me up the stairs, Eve?”
Eve, being transfixed by the interaction between the two siblings, took a moment to register what was being asked of her. Then she scrambled quickly to Oksana’s side and helped her up the stairs. She held her arm out for the younger woman to hold onto, and together they tackled the few stairs slowly and unhurriedly. As they reached the top, Pyotr called to them from the car.
“Do not be a stranger, sister!”
The two women turned back to find him waving from the road before he got into the car and began driving off. And then the two of them were alone. They stood side by side, facing the front door of the house. Eve thought she should say something meaningful, something special for the moment. Instead, what she said was, “I can’t believe you didn’t introduce me to your brother.”
Oksana gave a small laugh from next to her. “I was a little distracted.”
“Oh yeah?” Eve teased.
Rather than continue their banter, though, Oksana hobbled forward to the front door and pulled it open. She turned back and smiled teasingly at Eve. She tapped the side of her head. “Lightheaded, remember?”
Eve moved forward to help Oksana through the door and into the house. She wanted to ask her some of the many questions on her mind. She wanted to pull her into a tight hug and hold on for at least five minutes. She wanted to kiss her, too, at some point. But her first order of business was getting Oksana through the door. That way she couldn’t vanish. That way it would all be real.
It took Oksana most of the afternoon and early evening to tell Eve her entire story. Eve herself was the main reason it took so long, what with her continual interruptions with questions or her insistence that Oksana take a break and rest a bit. To which the former assassin would say something like, “A break from what, Eve? Talking? Yes, of course, it’s so strenuous.”
There were other interruptions, of course. Eve finally kissed Oksana after she’d settled her down on the couch. She gave her blankets and made her tea, even though Oksana had already told her that she was fine. She was weak and tired, not sick and helpless. Still, Eve all but smothered her with care. And then finally, when Oksana was comfortable, Eve leaned in slowly and pressed a kiss to her lips.
It was short and sweet, and when she pulled back she felt Oksana’s contented sigh against her lips. Eve pulled away a bit further and watched as Oksana’s lips curled into a pout. Smiling, Eve told her, “You can have another after you tell me where the hell you’ve been for the past two months. And what happened to you and why you were in the hospital.”
Oksana huffed impatiently but otherwise didn’t argue. “Make yourself comfortable, Eve. It is not a short story.”
When they finally reached the end of it, Eve was exhausted. It was still the early evening, but the emotional labour of listening to how Oksana had nearly died twice had left her quite drained. To not only have survived a gunshot wound to the stomach but blood poisoning as well. A small part of Eve was in awe at the strength of the woman who sat across from her. Most of her, however, was battling between anxiety and relief as the events of Oksana’s story came to a close.
“-After the infection started, I spent the next three and a half weeks in the hospital. The sepsis was stubborn. And even once it was gone, I had become so... weak-” Oksana’s nose crinkled in disgust at the word. “-That they had to keep me a bit longer so that I could recover well enough to be let out.”
Shaken, Eve listened to the remaining parts of Oksana’s story. How her brothers, Pyotr and Bor’ka, had picked her up from the hospital and taken her to their Airbnb in Barcelona. How they’d nursed her for a few days and helped her get back on her feet. How Oksana had, from the bedroom, basically given Bor’ka a virtual tour of Barcelona, and, when that hadn’t satisfied her young brother, how she’d continued to tell him all about Paris and London and Rome. Eve watched as she talked about them, the last of her family, and she wondered if the young woman missed them already.
It didn’t take long for Pyotr and Bor’ka to drift from Eve’s thoughts, however. They were characters to be explored later. She was mostly focused on the near-death experiences that Oksana had suffered. She knew it was pointless to be worried after the fact, but still, she found herself anxious and fretting. She heaved herself out of the armchair where she’d been sitting to listen and crossed the room over to Oksana. She knelt down by the couch and took the other woman’s hand into her own. She pressed her lips to the back of it. “Don’t ever scare me like that again.”
Oksana took her hand from Eve’s lips and ran her fingers along her cheek, back over the shell of her ear. “It is not my life anymore. But I can’t promise that I won’t ever scare you. It is not in my nature to live quietly.”
Eve didn’t respond immediately. What Oksana said had her thinking about her doubts from several days earlier and her revelations on the cliffside. Her worries and desires. Finally, she whispered, “It’s pretty quiet here.”
A moment passed in silence before Oksana replied, her gaze focused intently on Eve. “There are waves and thunder and goats, Eve. It is not as quiet as you think.”
Eve felt affection bloom in her chest. Her heart warmed as the meaning behind Oksana’s words sunk in. She leaned forward and pressed another kiss to the younger woman’s lips. She felt passion spark inside her. When she pulled back she asked, “Are you hungry?”
Oksana was taken aback by the sudden change of topic, and she paused before answering, “No..?”
“Good,” Eve told her as she rose from her knees. She extended a hand towards Oksana, making to pull her up from the couch. “We’ll eat dinner later then. I have something else in mind for you right now.”
Oksana’s eyebrow twitched upwards and she seemed genuinely surprised by the suggestion in Eve’s voice. “I thought you said I needed to rest,” she said as she took Eve’s hand and felt herself being pulled from the couch.
“You do.” Once she was standing, Eve began pulling her slowly and gently towards the bedroom. “Which is why you’re going to lay down in bed and I’m going to take care of you.”
Oksana frowned as Eve towed her along. “I honestly can’t tell if you’re talking about sex or not, Eve.”
“You’ll just have to wait and find out.”
Once in the bedroom, Oksana climbed awkwardly into the bed and laid on her back. Eve stood at the foot of the bed, watching her.
“Well, Eve, which is it?”
Eve hesitated for a moment before she crawled onto the bed and came to rest hovering over Oksana’s hips. She was trying to hold herself above the other woman as much as possible. She didn’t want to aggravate her bullet wound.
Her bullet wound. Eve shook her head. She was trying not to fixate on how close Oksana had come to death. Instead, she looked down at the woman beneath her and focused on the here and the now. “If anything hurts, tell me. If you feel ill, tell me. If you’re lightheaded or think you might pass out, tell me.”
“Shut up.” Eve hitched forward and used one hand to brush Oksana’s hair away from her face. Then she curled her finger down along her jawline and beneath her chin. “I’m glad you’re back,” she whispered.
Oksana smirked. “If this is how I’m greeted every time I return from a trip, I might have to leave more often.”
“Don’t you dare,” Eve growled, frowning. “You almost died.”
“I know. I was only teasing you, Eve. I am perfectly content to stay right here-” At that, Oksana brought her hands to Eve’s hips and squeezed reassuringly.
“Then here is where I’ll keep you,” Eve replied.
She said it firmly, like a promise, before she bent forward and kissed Oksana with all the softness in her heart. Eventually, when Oksana regained her strength, they could be rushed and rough, hard and insistent and demanding. Until then, Eve would be slow and gentle. She would take her time and reacquaint herself with all the curves of Oksana’s body. There would be time for them to live wildly. Until then, Eve was content to live peacefully and love gently, her touch as delicate as the sea breeze that caressed the wild grasses of the cliffs.
One more chapter, guys. Thank you so much for staying along for the ride <3
ALSO thanks to everyone who sent well wishes for my surgery, I am doin preeeeetty good now.
Chapter 23: Storms Weathered
HERE IT IS. Sorry it took a little while but I did promise I would finish it for y'all. Pls enjoy this MOLLY-CENTRIC(?) finale.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
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-”
“-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-”
“-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.”
“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.”
“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?”
“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?”
“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.”
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.
“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?”
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.
WE MADE IT. Thank you so, so much for reading, and for all the kudos, comments, and support y'all have consistently given this fic