Every now and then Eve was reminded of how much her life had changed in such a relatively short amount of time. OK, so perhaps she realised that fact more frequently than just every now and then, but at this very moment she was struck particularly potently by how different her life had become from what it had been just one year earlier.
She was leaning against a bar in a rowdy but high-end establishment in Central London nursing her fourth – or was it fifth? – glass of wine and surveying a crowd of gyrating co-workers. It was the Dreaded Office Christmas Party. An event like none other when it came to seeing colleagues in a new light, witnessing the office organisms in the wild. It was always…illuminating and uncomfortable. The wine was getting her through, but it was also lowering her into a pit of hazy nostalgia.
This time last year, Niko had been by her side, swirling half a beer around in its bottle and chatting amiably with anybody who came over to wish seasons greetings to Eve, who was respected and liked in her position. Bill had been matching Eve drink for drink and then dragged her out onto the dance floor – somewhere that was certainly not her natural habitat – to throw some enthusiastic shapes to the obligatory ABBA number that came on towards the end of the evening.
God, thinking of Bill still felt like a stab wound to Eve. She could weep if she let herself. Perhaps it was her mind’s way of trying to find some peace with her own actions, but she even thought – and it wasn’t a healthy thought, not really – that Bill could potentially have liked her new partner if life hadn’t taken the turn that it had. If Bill hadn’t followed Villanelle into that club in Berlin, if he was beside her now, watching Villanelle across the room dancing by herself, he would get a kick out of her coordinated flailing. Eve could convince herself that Bill would be amused by Villanelle, by her quirks and characteristics. He would enjoy her blunt truths and lack of filter. Bill, despite appearances, was a surprisingly free man, an accepting one. He was a good man and he hadn’t deserved the death he had received.
No, whichever way Eve painted it, she couldn’t reconcile that moment in her mind. The churning consumption of horror she felt when she imagined the last sight Bill probably saw; Villanelle’s white teeth glinting through her smile across the crowd in that club, a beacon of oncoming destruction. Eve took another swig of her wine.
Across the room, Villanelle executed a particularly elaborate spin, throwing a wide grin at Eve and forcing the other occupants of the dance floor to step back hastily to avoid being flicked by the fan of her loose hair. Eve returned her smile as warmly as she could manage. If it had been up to Eve then they wouldn’t be here tonight. But Villanelle, her shiny new email address now on the staff mailing list, had received the email detailing the time and location for this year’s Christmas Party and she had wanted to attend. She had wanted to dance. The Twelve had never thrown Christmas Parties she had told Eve with an exaggerated pout.
“Jesus, she’s an animal.” Elena said, suddenly at Eve’s side and following her distracted gaze to the dance floor before dropping herself onto a stool next to Eve at the bar.
“She’s… pretty uninhibited, yes.” Eve agreed, “I hadn’t actually seen her dance before.” She admitted.
“Well, it’s quite a sight.” Elena replied, turning her attention to the bar and ordering a gin and tonic.
And she was right. Villanelle had an unrivalled style when it came to dancing, as it turned out. She could be immediately spotted within the throng of those drunk enough to get to their feet, but not so drunk that they couldn’t. Her movements were primal and abandoned. Eve supposed she shouldn’t be surprised really; everything about Villanelle was that way.
“No Kenny tonight?” Eve asked, taking her eyes from Villanelle who was now almost convulsing to the beat, oblivious to everything around her for once.
“Nah, not really his thing, is it?” Elena replied, taking a long sip of her drink and leaning back against the bar. “Christ Eve, is she drunk or something?” She asked, once again watching Villanelle.
“Oh, no, actually. Oksana doesn’t really drink a lot. She’s only had a glass of champagne.” Eve explained.
“Makes sense.” Elena nodded. Eve looked over at her, confused.
“Does it?” she asked.
“Well, her file said her dad was a drunk, didn’t it?” Elena replied questioningly.
Eve had entirely forgotten that. At the time, when she had been wholly submerged in tracking Villanelle, those snippets of information had been like flakes of gold in a pan of river silt. But then the waters had got murkier and murkier and truths dissolved into lies until she doubted any of those so-called facts had been genuine. Fools gold for those stupid enough to covet it.
“It… Yeah, it did.” Eve said haltingly.
“Have you never asked her about her past?” Elena questioned incredulously, “I thought you would have quizzed her for hours by now. I mean, babe, you were obsessed with that woman.”
“I have asked!” Eve exclaimed and then took a soothing glug of wine, successfully emptying the glass. “She doesn’t like to talk about it.” She muttered defensively.
“I guess that’s not surprising. Must have been bleak as fuck.” Elena reasoned, knocking back the remainder of her drink. “Come on, we better drink up if we want to be able to match that maniac on the dance floor.” She added, turning back to the bar and raising her hand.
“Oh. I don’t think I want—” Eve started, glancing over her shoulder to try and halt Elena’s beckoning of the barman.
“Are you going to dance with me, baby?”
Eve turned back around abruptly as she felt Villanelle slink a hand down her arm and catch a hold of her fingers, giving her hand a gentle shake. How does she always appear out of nowhere like that? And how was she not even out of breath?
“I’m not much of a dancer,” Eve chuckled, linking her fingers with Villanelle’s and smiling apologetically at her.
“I dunno about that,” Elena shot over her shoulder, still leaning on the bar and waiting for their drinks.
“Oh yes?” Villanelle asked with interest, responding to Elena but raising an intrigued eyebrow at Eve.
“Eve here can move when she wants to,” Elena confirmed, nudging Eve with her shoulder and then immediately glancing warily at Villanelle. But Villanelle didn’t react to the shoulder nudge; she was patiently waiting for Elena to elaborate.
“Oh yeah,” Elena continued, her confidence bolstered by the fact that she had touched Eve in front of Villanelle and not been slashed, “At the Christmas Party last year—”
“Elena…” Eve warned.
“Ssshh baby, I want to hear about how well you can move.” Villanelle said, shaking her shoulders suggestively and squeezing Eve’s hand softly in her own.
Elena finally turned around fully and handed Eve a fresh glass of wine, which Eve then lifted immediately to her lips, Villanelle’s eyes tracking its movement like a seasoned predator.
“Last year, Eve got so smashed,” Elena laughed and Villanelle’s eyes narrowed almost imperceptibly. “She was proper owning that dance floor. Seriously, Villanelle, you should have seen it.” Elena was laughing through her words, remembering how everyone had formed a circle to witness the spectacle of Eve and Bill drunkenly throwing down to Dancing Queen.
“Interesting. I did not think The Moustache would be able to dance,” Villanelle said thoughtfully.
“The Moustache?” Elena queried, a baffled look on her face before realisation hit, “Oh, Niko? Jesus, no. That guy was stiff as a board. It was Eve and Bill.”
The name hit the floor like a dead weight. Eve pulled her hand from Villanelle’s and ran it through her hair instead. The room was suddenly too loud and too hot and too full of memories and it was all combining into a heavy fog, fuzzy with wine at the edges and Eve needed to… she just needed to…
“I’m just going to pop to the loo.” Eve said, slipping from the bar stool she had been seated on and stumbling slightly having forgotten she was in heels. Or it could have been the wine. Villanelle grabbed her elbow and steadied her on her feet.
“Thanks,” Eve said quickly, flashing a half-hearted smile at Villanelle, and then disappearing towards the corridor to the toilets on the other side of the room.
“Shit.” said Elena regretfully, watching Eve’s retreating back. Villanelle hummed and nodded slowly.
“We do not talk about him.” She said blankly.
“Obviously.” Elena bit back bravely. “Are you going to go after her?”
“To the bathroom?” Villanelle asked confusedly, “No?” she added, as though that should be obvious. Elena rolled her eyes.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake.” She sighed, “Watch our drinks.” Then she too headed in the direction of the toilets.
Friendships are very strange things, Villanelle decided, Eve is a grown woman, she doesn’t need a friend to take her to the bathroom. Villanelle lifted herself gracefully onto the barstool that Eve had just vacated. She didn’t take well to being ordered around like Elena had just done, but given that she was tasked with watching Eve’s drink as well, she would follow the instruction.
“Hey!” She called to the barman, who looked up in surprise. “Can I have a soda water, please?” She asked smiling sweetly.
Almost immediately a glass was placed in front of her.
“Thank-you,” she said tunefully. She would just have to wait for Eve and Elena to return, she supposed. And then Eve could dance with her and show her these moves that Elena was talking about. She would like that a lot.
“Eve?” Elena called, as she entered the toilets.
Eve was at the far end of the room, leaning her back against the sinks and staring at a closed toilet door. Elena didn’t say any more and simply went and stood next to Eve, mirroring her position. They were silent for several moments before Eve spoke.
“Do you have any cigarettes?” She asked without moving to look at Elena.
“Eve!” Elena gasped, looking aghast at the woman next to her. “Since when do you smoke?”
“Cut the crap, Elena. Do you have any?” Eve replied flatly.
Elena sighed and started digging around in her bag before producing a packet of cigarettes and a red, plastic lighter. She held them out to Eve who reached for them before Elena pulled them back, forcing Eve to look up at her in surprise.
“Do not tell Kenny.” She said firmly, her eyes wide. Eve nodded and Elena handed the packet over.
Eve pulled a cigarette from the packet and lit it, inhaling deeply and then throwing her head back and exhaling a cloud of smoke towards the ceiling. Her shoulders dropped.
Elena pushed the vacant toilet door open and stood on the toilet seat, reaching up to shove open the small window to the outside air. Then she clattered back to Eve, her heels making a racket on the tiled floor.
“Give me one of those.” She said, taking the packet back from Eve and lighting one for herself. She reclaimed her position next to Eve against the sinks, and the two of them sank into silence and smoke.
“Do you think Bill would have liked her?” Eve asked hollowly after a couple of minutes. Elena remained quiet for a second or two, considering the question.
“Oh God, I think he actually might have done.” She said truthfully.
“Yeah. Me too.” Eve agreed.
“Does that make it better or worse?” Elena asked, posing a question for the both of them.
“I don’t know.” Eve sighed. “Neither.” She concluded. Elena nodded and took another drag of her cigarette.
“You’ve never asked her about it?” Elena ventured.
“No.” Eve said, “I don’t think I could handle hearing what she would have to say.”
“That’s… a bit messed up.”
Eve let out a sudden laugh at that.
“It’s all a bit messed up, Elena!” She said, laughing manically. Elena couldn’t help but laugh too. It really was all a bit messed up. Their laughter began to thin.
“You don’t think maybe she regrets it?” Elena asked hopefully.
“I don’t think she regrets killing him.” Eve replied. She had thought about this a lot, despite desperately trying not to. “I think maybe she regrets that it hurt me. I mean, I think she regrets that now, not then.”
“That’s psychopath logic for you.” Elena said sardonically.
“I can’t change any of it,” Eve whispered, ignoring Elena’s conclusion.
“What does that mean?” Elena asked, turning to Eve.
“I can’t make her un-kill him,” Eve rationalized, and perhaps she was more drunk than she had realised.
“No babe.” Elena agreed softly.
“But I can’t not… I can’t stop, you know… I just… I love her.” Eve said hesitantly.
“Yep.” Elena said, popping the ‘P’.
Eve groaned, she took the last drag on her cigarette and then stubbed it out in the sink before flicking it into the bin.
“Right. OK.” Eve said decisively standing up straight and turning to look in the mirror. She shook her hair out, produced a lipstick from her purse and touched her lips up with it. “It’s Christmas, let’s just… try to enjoy it, shall we?”
“I mean, it’s the 19th of December.” Elena said flatly, “Plus, we’ve got that weekend away to get through yet. We don’t want peak too soon on the festive spirit.” Elena said, smiling and stubbing out her own cigarette and disposing of it.
“You know what I mean.” Eve chastised. She had put off thinking about the coming weekend. Carolyn had invited herself and Villanelle to a country house she had rented for the Christmas period. Kenny and Elena would be there too and it was bound to be… an absolute disaster.
“I get you. No more wallowing.” Elena nodded firmly. She reached into her bag again and pulled out some perfume and a packet of mints. “Open up!” she said to Eve, who obediently opened her mouth for Elena to chuck in a mint. “Waft!” she said, spraying a couple of squirts of perfume into the air, and ushering the scent over them both.
“Thank-you, Elena.” Eve said sincerely, crunching the mint between her teeth.
“No worries, babe. Now, let’s go find your woman before she causes some accidental damage on the dance floor.” She said, linking her arm through Eve’s and directing them out of the door.
Villanelle had been waiting, obedient but bored, where they had left her. Eve and Elena’s drinks remained untouched on the bar next to her and a drunken man in a suit was standing on wobbly legs to her side, clearly trying to flirt.
“Oh God,” Eve said as she assessed the situation.
“Yeah,” Elena agreed, “That’s probably not good.” she replied as they neared Villanelle.
“So, what do you do then, gorgeous?” The suited man slurred, “You must be new. I would have remembered seeing you around,” he added, looking Villanelle up and down with absolutely no subtlety.
“I’m sure I would have remembered you too.” Eve heard Villanelle reply scathingly in her standard London accent that she used for work.
“Is that right?” The man leered, missing Villanelle’s tone entirely “Well maybe now we’ve met, we should get to know each other a little better.” He reached out a hand and ran it down the back of Villanelle’s upper arm. So swiftly that the move was barely visible, Villanelle grabbed his hand. And, judging by the look on the man’s face, she had a bone crunching grip on him.
“You should never touch a woman without asking.” Villanelle hissed, her natural accent back in place.
“Ow, fuck!” the man yelped, “What the fuck is wrong with you?” he asked.
Villanelle twisted her wrist and the man crumpled to one side. At that moment Villanelle caught sight of Eve, who was surveying the scene with a mixture of dismay and amusement. A smile broke out over Villanelle’s face and she dropped the man’s hand, ignoring him as he stumbled backwards, cradling his injured hand against his chest.
“There you are baby!” Villanelle called.
The man looked at Eve in pure shock as she and Elena reached them.
“Alright, Mark?” Elena asked him casually.
“I… What?” the man, Mark, gasped.
Villanelle stepped down from the barstool and pulled Eve into her side. Eve could feel the slight residual tension in Villanelle’s frame and rubbed discrete circles into the small of her back.
“Fucking psycho.” The man spat and shuffled away from the group. Villanelle shrugged indifferently.
“Nice one, Villanelle!” Elena laughed, “He’s always been a twat.” She raised her hand to Villanelle for a high five and Villanelle stared at it blankly until she dropped it again, “Never mind.” Elena muttered.
Eve turned her face into Villanelle’s shoulder to muffle her laughter at Elena’s crestfallen expression and Villanelle pressed a kiss into Eve’s hair then sniffed it suspiciously. Eve shot her a guilty look, but Villanelle didn’t seem bothered.
“Will you dance with me now, Eve?” Villanelle asked pleadingly.
“Yeah, dance with her Eve!” Elena called, grabbing her drink from the bar and sucking half of it through the straw. Her eyes sparkled with mirth and Eve knew just how entertained Elena would be to see Eve trying to keep up with Villanelle’s style of dancing.
“OK, OK,” Eve relented, “Just let me have another drink first.”
“Ugh. You have had five glasses of wine already.” Villanelle said, slumping back onto the barstool, but keeping her arm around Eve’s waist, so Eve had to stagger back slightly to stay in line with her.
“One more won’t hurt then!” Elena let out, handing Eve her drink, “There you go, babe.”
Villanelle’s grip on Eve’s hip tightened minutely but Eve chose to ignore it this time. She had meant it when she said they should enjoy themselves, so she would down this wine and then let Villanelle drag her out onto the dance floor.
A couple of hours later and Eve was without a doubt drunk now, and also her feet hurt and she was tired and she wanted Villanelle to take her home so they could go to bed and maybe she needed a glass of water.
“She needs to go to bed,” Elena slurred, pointing at Eve with a wobbly finger.
“You need to go to bed!” Eve exclaimed defiantly and then she lifted a hand to her head, “No, no. I need to go to bed.” She decided to herself.
They were seated now, the crowds of colleagues from MI6 had thinned out and Villanelle had snagged a booth for the three of them when they last stumbled from the dance floor. Villanelle was still wide-awake and alert, sitting upright on the outside edge of the booth opposite Elena. Eve was faring less well. She was leaning against Villanelle’s strong frame, playing with the ring on Villanelle’s thumb that rested on her stomach where the younger woman was attempting to keep Eve upright with an arm around her waist. But still Eve was gradually slipping further down Villanelle’s body seemingly without realising.
Villanelle looked down at Eve with a frown.
“Yes. You need to go to bed. We will leave now.” She decided and started to stand.
“But!” Eve stopped her, and Villanelle stared at her waiting for her to continue, “What about Elena?”
“Elena is not coming home with us.” Villanelle said, looking quite disgusted with the idea.
“As if I want to go home with you.” Elena muttered, hurt.
“No,” Eve dragged out the word as if the other two women were being stupid, “Call her a cab.”
“I can call my own cab thank-you, drunkie.” Elena laughed, though to be honest, she wasn’t far behind Eve in terms of drunkenness.
“See? She is fine.” Villanelle said, trying to hoist Eve from the booth. But Eve wouldn’t budge and made them wait for Elena to follow through on her promise to call a cab. And then Villanelle became increasingly impatient when Eve also made them wait until Elena was in said cab before heading home themselves.
Finally at home and in their bedroom, Villanelle had put a glass of water on Eve’s nightstand and was now surveying the scene as Eve tried to wrestle her tights off, squirming on the bed as she did so. Villanelle sighed and approached.
“You drank too much, Eve.” Villanelle said, taking hold of the waistband of Eve’s tights.
“You don’t like me when I’m drunk.” Eve said miserably, relinquishing her task of undressing and leaving it to Villanelle.
“I like you all the time,” Villanelle assured her quietly, “But no, I do not like it when you drink too much.” She admitted, pulling both feet of Eve’s tights towards herself, stretching them from the other woman’s body and suspending Eve’s legs in the air in the process.
“Because your dad was a drunk!” Eve said, louder than necessary as she remembered what Elena had said earlier. The tights made it down Eve’s legs at Villanelle’s insistence and Eve’s legs dropped to the bed suddenly without the tension of the fabric to support them.
“What?” Villanelle asked harshly.
“Your file. We had your file from… From prison? Or school? I can’t remember. It said your dad was a drunk.” Eve explained, the details unclear in her mind.
“My father was an arsehole.” Villanelle murmured darkly, beginning to edge Eve’s dress up over her hips. “Sit up,” she instructed.
“Was he a… Was he a drunk arsehole?” Eve asked, struggling into a sitting position, all sense of delicacy lost in her drunkenness. Villanelle studied her for a moment but didn’t reply.
“Arms.” Villanelle ordered. And Eve lifted her arms so Villanelle could start to pull the dress over her head.
“Was he?” Eve asked, voice muffled, from inside her dress.
“Yes!” Villanelle snapped and Eve’s head popped out again as Villanelle heaved the dress off of her completely.
“Did he hurt you? Is that why you don’t like it when people are drunk?” Eve questioned, really on a roll now. Elena was right, if Eve had had the chance to quiz Villanelle in those early days, she would have jumped at it. Why hadn’t she pushed harder with these questions earlier?
“Yes, Eve. My arsehole father used to get drunk and beat the shit out of me. I do not see the fun in being drunk.” Villanelle said tersely, her whole body taut as though she were fighting some kind of gut instinct.
“Oh.” Said Eve, swiftly realising the corner she had backed Villanelle into now and beginning to regret it.
“Is that what you wanted to hear?” Villanelle asked caustically.
“No, of course not. I—” Eve stammered, suddenly feeling completely stupid, half-reclined on the bed in her underwear, a sloppy drunk demanding painful answers from the woman who was currently taking care of her.
“Do you want your pyjamas?” Villanelle asked, abruptly changing the subject.
“Oh. Um… I don’t know. I thought maybe we… Do you want to, you know…” Eve ventured awkwardly. It was most unlike Villanelle to suggest Eve might want to wear her pyjamas.
“You are drunk, Eve.” Villanelle said with finality, “We are not having sex.”
“Sorry,” Eve whispered, shuffling over to her side of the bed and slipping beneath the covers. She wasn’t sorry for being drunk; she enjoyed letting loose with Elena every so often. She was sorry for asking those stupid fucking questions. That had not been a well thought out plan. Villanelle heaved out a sigh.
“It is fine.” Villanelle said, and followed suit, climbing into her own side of the bed and settling down before switching out her lamp and letting darkness fill the room.
Eve lay beside her and felt the room spinning on its axis, maybe that last glass of wine had been a mistake. It was always the last glass. All of a sudden she wanted to cry. She really had to try not to. She had successfully proved herself to be a messy drunk. She didn’t need to stick a weepy little umbrella in the fun cocktail of emotions she had thrown Villanelle’s way already. But it was too late, a tear rolled down her cheek and she failed to stifle a sob. Eve heard the sheets rustle next to her as Villanelle tried to look at her in the dark.
“Are you crying now?” Villanelle asked in disbelief.
“No.” Eve choked out.
“Eve…” Villanelle let out.
“Yes! I’m sorry!” Eve sobbed. And Villanelle chuckled softly and shifted over to Eve’s side of the bed, gathering the other woman who was now shaking with tears into her arms.
“It’s OK,” Villanelle uttered, rocking Eve gently, which did nothing to ease Eve’s nausea. “We can have sex tomorrow when you are not drunk.” Villanelle said soothingly. And Eve pulled back, her tears easing.
“What?” Eve asked with a sniff.
“There’s no need to cry about it.” Villanelle said blankly.
“I’m not crying about that! I’m crying because I asked you those horrible questions!” Eve exclaimed.
“Oh.” said Villanelle, taken aback. “Yes. That was a bit shitty. But drunk people do shitty things. You can’t un-ask them now.” She stated simply.
Eve strained to see the other women in the darkness and then gave up and lay her head back down on Villanelle’s chest. Villanelle tightened her grip around Eve and released a sleepy sigh.
“You are going to feel awful in the morning.” Villanelle said with a hint of smugness. Eve nodded against her and said nothing. “And we have a car journey to make.” Villanelle added, and now there was no denying the smugness.
Eve’s eyes shot open as Villanelle’s words sank in and she remembered the weekend trip to Carolyn’s country house. She felt the chest beneath her cheek shake with laughter. Eve groaned.