You don’t get to where Eve is without hard work.
She was brought up with it drilled into her by her parents, her teachers, her tutors; ‘You won’t get anywhere without hard work’.
So Eve worked hard, and she got results.
Eve liked results.
She threw herself into everything with results as her motivation. She aced tests, passed top of her classes, made enough money delivering papers and washing cars to buy herself the little things she wanted. She was a force to be reckoned with in athletics through middle school and high school, she was the first to sign up for extra curricular projects, and she was valedictorian when it came time to graduate.
Some called her an overachiever; she called it hard work.
Eve wasn’t upset when they moved back to England. England meant new rules and new lessons and new opportunities. New challenges.
She studied Anthropology at the University of Kent, devouring every comprehensive perspective on what it means to be human through culture, the arts, history, biology and evolution. She joined any group that would give her something new to learn without driving herself into an early, exhausted grave, and discovered she had a talent for drawing.
So she drew.
Eve studied Anthropology, and drew the lecture themes. She played football (football, Eve, not soccer anymore) with uni friends, and drew what she could remember from the matches. She worked part time at a pub, and drew the building on her breaks. She tutored kids at the nearby tennis club, and drew the surrounding nature after her sessions.
And she loved it.
She went to life classes, sketched at museums, joined art groups, doodled in notebooks. She tried her hand at realism, illustration, technical drawing, manga. She dabbled in watercolour pencils, oil pastels, charcoal, chalk.
She was better at drawing styles with more rules, but that’s not to say she didn’t enjoy letting the pencil glide out of the realms of normality. She liked to play with bold lines and patterns just as much as she liked capturing photo like perfection on paper. It depended on her mood, really.
In short, Eve liked to draw.
She got her first tattoo when she was 21. She’d drawn it out carefully, got it exactly the way she wanted, worked hard on the design. It was the American robin, the state bird of Connecticut, and it was a way for her to proudly show where she’d grown up. Her design was an adaptation of the bird, with flowing lines and faded edges, identifiable enough to be the American robin but unique enough to be truly her own.
When she got to the tattoo parlour she’d chosen for its good reviews, she was seated on a leather sofa by a sweet girl with piercings in her lip and candy pink hair, who told Eve to wait just a few minutes while the artist prepped the chair. The low table in front of her housed huge portfolio books, and as Eve flipped one open she found sleeve after plastic sleeve full of drawings.
She quickly opened all of the books up and spread them in front of her, turning random pages, drinking in the colours and designs and contrasts between what were clearly the different styles of the various artists that worked at this studio. It couldn’t have been more than five minutes when a short guy walked over and caught her attention with a laugh.
He had a nice laugh, sort of scratchy, like he’d been talking or singing for too long. Eve looked up and took in the muscled guy in front of her, arms filled with dark lines and rich colours, his beard scruffy around the edges and his eyes bright behind his somewhat boring glasses.
“There’s so much.”
It’s all Eve can think to say right now, still half lost in the amount of work in front of her.
“Yeah, it’s a lot.” He says, walking around to her side of the table and peering down at the open portfolios. “Any time we draw some flash or whatever, it goes in those. And we spend a lot of time drawing, so.”
He gestures at the spread with a hand, smiling, and Eve smiles back.
“I love to draw.” She says, “I know I don’t look the type, but I love it. And all of this is just…” Eve trails off and shakes her head.
“I’m Joe.” Says the artist, reaching out his hand to shake Eve’s. “That’s my folder there. Full of a few years’ worth of drawing and doodles now. People choose pieces from it now and again, but I just can’t stop myself from packing more into it.”
He laughs again, and Eve pulls his book towards her, flicking through the pages. His work is bold, with thick lines and deep colours, but with a certain something that lends them a stained glass window sort of look, like his tattoos should be in the windows of cathedrals, not in the pages of plastic wallets tucked inside a book.
Eve feels like the weight of the slip of paper in her pocket, the paper her design is meticulously drawn onto, and it’s all of a sudden uncomfortable. She looks up at Joe, eyes focussed, and feels something far beyond the decision of a tattoo settle inside her chest.
“I’ve changed my mind,” she says, smiling at his confused look. “Forget the design I sent you the photo of. I want one of yours.”
Joe is smiling now too, but his eyebrows stay furrowed in confusion.
“You sure?” He half chuckles, “I don’t want you to regret a last minute decision.”
“I’m sure,” Eve nods, “Just look at all of this. The passion and the feeling and the hard work… I want one of your designs. A bird, if you have one.”
Joe is smiling fully now as he starts to walk away from the table, nodding his head towards a massage style chair wrapped in cling film in the corner.
“How about I draw one for you right now, an American robin.” He throws over his shoulder as he moves, “and you can show me your drawings too, while we talk. Who knows, maybe you’d make a good tattoo artist. Maybe you’ll have someone walk into your own studio one day, asking for you to draw them a bird.”
Eve’s heart flutters at the thought, and suddenly, after years of trying everything she can get her hands on, after learning everything available to her and working her ass off to discover it all, Eve knows what she wants to spend the rest of her life working hard on.
Maybe if she doesn’t say anything, he’ll stop shouting for her from the front room and she can get on with her full inbox of emails.
She rolls her eyes and groans.
“What do you want, Hugo?” Eve shouts back, rubbing at her forehead in frustration. “You know I’m busy.”
There’s the sound of muffled voices from the next room and Eve thinks that maybe Hugo will drop whatever ridiculous reason he needs her for so she can carry on with her emails, because honestly if she doesn’t get through at least a quarter of them today then-
“I know, but… she’s done it again.”
Eve doesn’t need telling that twice.
She slams her laptop shut with probably too much force as she pushes her chair back from her desk, then storms through her office space and into the studio.
The work day is in full swing in the studio, with both of her artists tattooing clients. Kenny is in the middle of giving a burly guy a huge rib piece of ruler straight lines and shapes in seemingly random places, but knowing Kenny and his eye for detail, the tattoo will be a geometric masterpiece. Elena has two clients, girls around uni age, one watching excitedly as the other gets a tattoo featuring a vibrantly coloured nude woman surrounded by stars, another one of Elena’s popular ‘love yourself’ pieces.
Kenny is frowning at his work, tattoo gun in hand, clearly trying and failing to ignore what’s going on, while Elena is barely concealing her amusement at the entire situation. She glances up at Eve as she storms in, clearly struggling not to laugh, and Eve throws a scowl at her.
Her body modification expert Hugo is standing by the large front window, arms folded as he stares out at what Eve expects to be the reason she won’t get her emails to clients answered any time soon.
“Hugo,” she mutters darkly as she approaches. “You’ve been on front desk for an hour, how did you not notice her?”
Hugo turns to her and puts his hands up in defence.
“I swear Eve, I answered the phone and looked away for like two minutes, max.” He says, exasperated and a little touchy at being blamed. “It’s like she was waiting, or something. I don’t know how she does it.”
Eve groans angrily, and looks out the window to see that yes, she has indeed ‘done it again’.
The pathway outside of the studio is covered in old plant clippings, dead petals, and compost, already starting to dry out and warm up in the July sun. The stuff seems to be everywhere, it’s blocking people from walking on the path by the window and door, and Eve lets out an unhappy groan as she thuds her forehead against the glass. It’ll take forever to clean up.
Eve sends a silent and mournful goodbye to her email answering session.
She notices a young woman with curly blonde hair approach the studio then stop when she almost steps on the mess, nose wrinkling at the undoubtedly terrible smell. Eve sighs as she pushes herself away from the window and walks to the door.
She swings it open and smiles a strained smile at the woman.
“Hello, are you my 2:15?”
The woman looks a bit taken aback by Eve’s sudden appearance.
“Uh, yes, I think? 2:15 with Eve, I’m Amber. I’m-“
“Awesome, hi Amber,” Eve interrupts. “I’m afraid you’ll have to bear with me for a moment. I have a tiny issue I need to take care of first, as I’m sure you can see.”
Amber nods with wide eyes as Eve leaves the studio and takes a wide step over the mulch to walk along the road edge. She can feel Amber’s curious gaze on her back as she walks the 10 steps to the neighbouring building.
Although an exact mirror image of her own two story red brick building, the front of the neighbouring store couldn’t be more different to Eve’s own.
Eve’s tattoo parlour, Original Sin (she’ll forever be grateful to Joe for giving her that name idea 10 years prior), features only a door and large window, both with painted black frames, below a white sign bearing the studio’s name in clear, bold lettering. The sleek and minimal colouring works with the red brick perfectly, lending the studio a stylish, modern vibe that people on the street are drawn to, many of which peer through the window to watch the artists at work before sometimes wandering in themselves.
The building next door, however, is another story.
It’s a florist.
Crammed along the wall of the shop front are flowers and potted plants, some perched on upturned crates and wooden pallets in a way that would look messy if it didn’t look so damn ‘instagram’. Vines of rich green leaves climb up the brick wall, crawling over the window and curling through the now unmovable awning, before finally twisting themselves around the ‘G’ of the bright pink neon sign fixed to the brick.
The cursive ‘Garden of Eden’ wording glows pink, even in the early afternoon sunlight .
Eve often thinks it’s some kind of cruel twist of fate that her infuriating neighbour would call her flower shop something that relates to Eve’s studio name and her own name so much.
Eve stops in front of the frustratingly beautiful storefront and steels herself.
“Villanelle!” She barks angrily.
Moments later, a head pops up at the window, waving cheerily at Eve.
Villanelle was the owner of Garden of Eden, and is, according to Elena, florist royalty.
She is, according to Eve, a royal pain in the ass.
Villanelle seemed hell bent on ruining Eve’s working life. If she wasn’t dumping plant garbage in front of her studio, she was ordering sacks of fresh compost to be delivered and left at her studio door. If she wasn’t ordering compost, she was ‘accidentally’ spraying the studio window with her hose on full blast, making the artists jump while working. If she wasn’t spraying the window with her hose, she was parading up and down the path yelling about botany and charming people into the florist while blocking Eve’s door.
And yeah, okay, so Eve gets back at Villanelle in turn every single time, but the stuff Eve does is nowhere near as annoying, in her opinion. She blasts her studio music to ruin the gentle French tunes Villanelle plays in her florist. She slams the hinged lid of their giant shared outdoor bin extra hard against Villanelle’s side wall, and doesn’t apologise if she hears a shelved pot fall and crack followed by a muffled yell of anger. She smears the tattoo lotion they sell to customers all the way along Villanelle’s big window as she walks by to head to the coffee shop on the corner.
So you know, way less annoying.
And anyway, Villanelle started it.
But that’s not important right now.
What’s important right now is Villanelle stepping out of her doorway, smiling as if nothing’s wrong and she hasn’t just dumped a load of stinking crap outside Eve’s studio.
It only takes a second for Eve to look Villanelle up and down, taking in her, no doubt, designer jeans and her loose pastel blue tee that probably cost more than Eve’s tattoo sleeve. Her honey blonde hair is loose over her shoulders and her hands have smears if soil on them as she crosses her arms casually and grins at Eve.
“Eve. To what do I owe the pleasure?”
“Cut the crap, Villanelle.” Eve bites out, “Why does the front of my studio look like your compost heap?”
Villanelle taps one mucky finger against her chin, faux thoughtfulness painted across her face.
“Raccoons?” She shrugs, her soft Russian accent curling around the word. “Must be those pesky raccoons again, getting into the bins.”
Eve sighs angrily.
“Once again, Villanelle, this is London.” Eve says, irritated. “There are no wild raccoons in London.”
Villanelle smiles pityingly from her doorway as if Eve is missing out on something the whole world already knows.
“There are on this street, Eve. Surely the last six times this has happened has shown you that.”
“No, Eve’s right, there are no raccoons in London.”
Eve looks over her shoulder to see her client, Amber, watching them both with innocent interest.
Eve looks back at Villanelle, whose face has dropped into a displeased grimace.
“Who are you?” She asks, clearly annoyed that someone has interrupted her and Eve’s conversation.
“She’s my 2:15,” Eve replies pointedly, “who couldn’t get through my front door because of the trail of shitty plant crap you left there.”
“It is not ‘shitty plant crap’, Eve,” Villanelle says hotly, and Eve smirks, satisfied that she’s hit the usual nerve. “That ‘crap’ is essential to the growth of green life, it’s the very essence of-”
“Hey did you guys both name your shops after the whole Adam and Eve biblical thing on purpose? Because-”
“No.” Villanelle and Eve both bark at Amber at the same time.
Eve turns back to Villanelle and glares at her.
“Clean up your mess, Villanelle.” She says cooly, “or I’ll pour salt on your favourite monstera plant.”
“Do not drag the innocents into this,” Villanelle glowers and folds her arms tighter. “My babies have nothing to do with-”
“It’s twenty past, do I get a discount seeing as there’ll be less time for my tattoo?”
Eve is contemplating lying and telling Amber that she has a strict ‘no talking’ policy during her sessions.
“And now you’ve cost me money.” Eve says to Villanelle, holding her arms out by her side before dropping them back down angrily. “Thanks a lot.”
Villanelle sneers and opens her mouth to reply just as Amber cuts her off with a happy clap.
“Yay! Money off!”
Eve rolls her eyes and turns to hurry Amber back in the direction of her studio, stepping over lumps of compost as she does so.
“Clean it up, Poison Ivy!” Eve yells grumpily over her shoulder.
“Ask the raccoons, little robin!” Villanelle shouts back in a sing song voice.
“That was fun.” says Amber obliviously, to Eve.
“Shut up, Amber.”