Eve opens her eyes.
The sky claps loudly with thunder, a morning storm rolling across the city and darkening the efforts of the just-rising sun.
It’s too early to be awake. This time of year, Eve’s usual wake up time comes with early light, but a glance at the window shows the day is still an hour away.
But, Eve opens her eyes, and Eve wakes up.
She looks back at the window. Then again. She blinks, squints, strains her eyes in the dark.
The curtains are green. Thick, long, brushing the floor. Keeping most of the outside from view but for a crack in the centre, fabric not quite pulled fully together.
Not an exciting or interesting thought to have, if not for the fact that Eve doesn’t have curtains in front of her bedroom window.
She has wooden blinds. Installed them herself.
(Broke a nail, got a splinter, but the fuckers went up.)
Eve closes her eyes.
She opens them and the curtains are still green and distinctly not wooden and horizontal.
“Niko,” she mumbles, voice thick with sleep, “when did you-”
The other side of the bed is cold.
Niko doesn’t get up until Eve does. He gets ready much quicker and is out of the door while she eats a hasty breakfast most days, but he’s always there when she wakes.
“Niko?” She calls. Clears her throat. Tries again. “Niko?”
The house gives her silence in return as the sky gives her thunder.
Eve sits up.
The duvet slides down to slump heavily in her lap, soft as silk against her skin. Eve strokes it absentmindedly, fingers the delicate weave while she tries to think where Niko might be. Did he have plans? School trip? Is he… is he out running? No, definitely not.
The luxurious softness of the sheets soothes her for a moment, until she recognises that luxurious isn’t a word she’d ever use to describe her pinstripe bedding.
Eve looks down.
The sheets are dark pink, somewhere between red and purple, a deep deep rose on high thread count cotton. Looking over her shoulder she finds the same colour on the pillowcases, but a rich mustard yellow sheet on the bed and extra pillows.
For the first time since waking up, Eve wakes up.
“What the fuck,” she murmurs, hands now brushing with increased urgency over the sheets, “where the fuck… ”
But no, no, this is her bedroom. It’s the same shape, the windows and doors are the same, the ceiling is the same. The furniture is different and she realises with a flip of her stomach that the bed is in a different place, the realisation making her queasy like she’s been spun too many times then pointed in some random direction.
She tells herself it can’t be real, none of this is real. A trick of the light, a weird dream, a bad hangover. With a poorly controlled breath that fails to keep the panic at bay, she stands up from the bed and allows her toes to scrunch into the soft rug at her feet.
Eve leaves the bedroom.
The house is dark but even so there are differences.
Different colours on the walls, different furniture, nicer furniture, ridiculous shades on the overhead lights that Eve would never buy but realises she loves as she takes them in. There are flowers and plants in vases and pots decorating surfaces as she heads down the hallway to the stairs, beautiful paintings and photography on the walls, art prints and antique-looking signs and an entire mishmash of decor that somehow works perfectly together.
If the layout wasn’t the exact same Eve would be certain she was in someone else’s home; she’d never be capable of this level of style, let alone commitment to actually decorate the damn place this carefully.
Halfway down the stairs she notes light leaking out from beneath the kitchen door.
Fear chokes her for a moment, but she follows the stairs and the floorboards until she’s at the door, hand shaking as she turns the handle.
The kitchen is empty.
So is the adjoining living room, but a lamp near the kitchen island is on, bathing both rooms in a gentle glow.
Eve notes a coffee machine on the side, shiny and futuristic looking, stupidly posh. The screen shows a timer, shows it’s set to pour 5 minutes from now.
She doesn’t need to look around much to know that these rooms reflect the rest of the house. The same, but different.
There’s something on the far side of the island. A note, white, square, scribbled on, sitting on the marble in the light of the lamp.
Eve takes shaky steps towards it.
If you’re up before I’m back, I’ve gone for a run.
I’ve set the machine to make you coffee if you do get up.
DO NOT TOUCH THE SCREEN
Yes, you will end up breaking it again and no, I will not fix it again
(I will fix it)
Love you x
Eve reads it once. Twice. Five more times.
Not Niko’s handwriting.
The panic forms a hard knot in her stomach, threatens to rise and block her throat. Her hand rests against her neck, nails digging in slightly, ready to claw it open.
Where is she?
The front door clicks. A key turns, it opens, quiet footsteps shuffle inside. Eve can hear the bass of a song through headphones, muffled but distinct in the silence. Her heart sits still in her chest.
“Hey, good morning.”
Villanelle is sweaty, skin slick and hair frizzy as the hallway light creates a halo behind her while she stands in the kitchen doorway. She smiles at Eve, easy, warm.
Villanelle takes a step forward.
Eve takes a step back.
She bangs into the fridge, barely feels it knock her shoulder blade.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you.” She says softly. “I’m going to shower.” She peers over at the coffee machine before flashing Eve a comfortable grin. “Coffee’s nearly ready. You didn’t touch it. Very proud of you.” And then she winks, and then she smiles, and then she leaves. Eve hears her slide her trainers off before putting them in the cupboard under the stairs. Eve hears her walk up to the landing, to the bedroom, the en-suite. Eve hears the shower turn on.
Eve breathes for the first time in too long.
“Fuck,” she gasps, dots in her vision, panic clouding her. “Shit, fuck.”
She turns to grab something off the counter, anything she can use as a weapon, a knife, a pan, a fucking spatula, whatever, just something .
Eve stops. The fridge door is covered in colour. Photos and postcards and magnets, lists and notes, a kid’s drawing signed ‘Zoe Pargrave’.
What kind of sick fucking joke-
But then, then, a photo booth strip. The kind from arcades, weddings, events, and it’s.
It’s Eve, and it’s Villanelle.
In the top picture they’re smiling, wide, toothy and happy. In the next Villanelle is pulling a face, stupid and silly, hands on Eve’s cheeks to make her pout like a fish. The next one is Villanelle warding off an attack from Eve who is mid-hitting her, laughter stretching her smile into something purely jovial, and in the last photo, in the last photo-
Lips, centimetres from touching, almost there, eyes closed, still crinkled from laughter. God, it’s so intimate, the pictures scream domesticity, scream familiarity.
A photo of them at a wedding or something, not looking at the camera, focussed somewhere off to the side and watching with fond eyes at whatever it is. Villanelle is in a scarlet red dress that sits high on her neck, Eve in a light green blouse that looks like silk. Villanelle has her arm around Eve’s shoulder and Eve is leaning into her, totally comfortable, totally safe.
Another photo, this time just Villanelle. Or at least, it looks like just Villanelle, dressed head to toe in winter wear, bobble hat and all, but in the background Eve sees another figure with their arm wound back. It takes a second for Eve to realise it’s Elena, Elena from a job that feels like a lifetime ago, snowball in her hand and grinning wide, clearly ready to throw it at the back of Villanelle’s smiling face.
Eve’s hand covers her mouth to hold in the wet gasp she makes at a photo that catches her eye near the kid’s drawing.
It’s Bill, in the flesh, rosy cheeked and thinning hair and in his arms is a struggling child, no older than five, reaching for Villanelle who is laughing next to Bill. Eve is on his other side, she has her arm threaded through his creating a tight link, glancing distractedly at the child trying to get to Villanelle. A sweet picture gone wrong, clearly, but Eve can see why it’s been kept.
The drawing, it must be from his daughter. The little girl in the picture must be Zoe. Eve looks at the drawing and almost chokes on a sob as she sees three strange blob-like figures, one with three wildly curly lines coming from its head, one with two long, straight yellow lines, and one short one with dark brown lines that look like they were supposed to be braids. They’re under a rainbow and a sun and honestly the whole thing is very cliche for a child’s drawing, but god it’s real, and Eve’s chest hurts and her eyes burn and-
A photo tucked behind a menu for a Chinese takeout place. It’s small, a Polaroid, a selfie of Eve and Villanelle kissing, smiling into each other, shoulders bare.
The shower is no longer running.
Villanelle’s voice calls to her from upstairs.
“Um…” Eve starts, unable to tear her eyes away from the life spread across the fridge door. “I- yes?”
“Are you coming back up?”
Eve feels her tears slip over, hot on her cheeks.
“In a second.”
“Okay,” Villanelle shouts, cheerful and warm. “Bring the coffees up? We can get twenty minutes of snuggling in before your alarm goes off if you hurry.”
Eve closes her eyes, clenches them shut, tighter tighter tighter until stars spark and her skin hurts.
When she opens them, the kitchen is gone.