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Eve hung up the phone, staring at the now blank screen. She could see her reflection, wide-eyed and pale, like a ghost swimming in the black. She wondered how this could have happened, what God had decided she was worthy of punishment, what butterfly had flapped its wings purely to screw her over.

In a daze, she walked back into the living room from the hallway, standing in the doorway and staring at Villanelle, wanting to capture this moment. Villanelle was curled up on the couch, watching something loud and obnoxious on TV with a bored expression on her face. Eve ached for her, for this moment, needing to touch her, to apologise for what was coming, for what it would mean.

‘Eve? You look like shit.’ Villanelle leapt up, reaching out. Eve closed her eyes as Villanelle’s fingers brushed over her shoulder before clamping down, moving her towards the couch. It was obviously meant to be a caring gesture, ruined a little by how hard Villanelle was holding her, fingers pressing into her shoulder like iron rods and betraying Villanelle’s concern. ‘Eve, who was that?’

Eve looked up into her girlfriend’s beautiful face, her hazel eyes wide with worry. She didn’t want to tell her, didn’t want to ruin what they had, but there was no choice, no way out of this.

‘My mother is coming.’


Eve lay in bed, watching Villanelle get ready for the night, wiping her makeup off. Eve didn’t know what she’d done that day, to warrant the expensive lipstick. Maybe it was a treat yourself day, maybe she’d decided to get a job done early. Eve had gotten used to a certain lack of effort on Villanelle’s part when she stayed around home, the way she always looked very carefully un-put together. Like the way that the bedhead look only worked if you spent three hours doing it.

Eve took a breath, decided now was as good a time as any to start spilling the lies she’d given her mother today. ‘I told Mom you were thirty-five.’

Villanelle smiled, brow furrowed. She looked at Eve in the mirror, amusement written across her face. ‘Uh, thirty-five? I can't pass for thirty-five.’

‘Well, you don’t have kids, you’re sun-conscious, you get good sleep.’ Eve shrugged. ‘You could pull it off.’

Villanelle’s frown lost the smile, and she studied her reflection, poking one finger against her brow and moving the skin. ‘Seriously?’

‘Look, Mom’s going to find it hard enough to understand this,’ she gestured between the two of them, ‘let alone that I’m with someone so young.’ She felt sick every time she thought about her mother meeting Villanelle, or Villanelle meeting her mother. They were going to hate each other, she knew, she just knew it. She wished her dad was still alive, wished he could come and be reasonable about the whole thing.

She kept hearing her mother’s long silence, punctuated only by them breathing down the line at each other, when Eve had told her that, actually, her new partner was a woman. Yesterday. She should have told her mother a year ago when they'd moved in together, six months before that when they'd made it official, two years ago when she was shot and realised what hurt worse was the thought of never seeing Villanelle again. 

‘Yes, but I look young, too,’ Villanelle said, waving a hand to encompass her own face. ‘She’ll never believe it.’ Her voice had taken on this superior air, vanity curling at the edges.

Eve pursed her lips, annoyed that this was the aspect Villanelle chose to focus on, not the my mom might be vaguely homophobic, or the maybe complaining about my pretend age to my much older girlfriend is a little rude. ‘My Mom can’t tell white people ages. You all look haggard.’

Villanelle made a noise in her throat that sounded painful. ‘Haggard?’ She pulled her skin back from her cheeks, making herself look Botoxed.

Eve smiled, a twisted sense of satisfaction settling into her chest. ‘It’s your people’s cross to bear for all the racism,’ she said, rolling onto her side.

Villanelle gave a shaky laugh. ‘That was a joke, right? You’re mad at me, or something, right?’ she said.

‘I’m not mad at you.’ Eve sighed, felt the bed sink behind her as Villanelle crawled into bed.

‘I will make you happy,’ Villanelle said, kissing her cheek. ‘And then you can stop pretending I look like shit?’

Eve closed her eyes, and Villanelle rolled her onto her back, straddling her hips. ‘I’m just stressed.’ She opened her eyes to see Villanelle hovering over her, face twisted in this earnest expression that made Eve forgive her.

‘OK. Parents are difficult, I know.’

And, oh God, of course Villanelle knew. ‘My Mom is just… constantly disappointed.’

Villanelle nodded, lips pressed tight together. ‘My mother locked me in a cupboard once.’

‘Oh, God.’ Eve reached out, grasped Villanelle’s shoulder. ‘That’s horrible.’ She tried to ignore her second thought, which was something half-baked about coming out of the cupboard rather than the closet.

‘So, I know how you feel,’ Villanelle said. She put her hand on Eve’s chest, between her breasts, her other hand on her own chest.

‘Oh, no. My mother wasn’t abusive,’ Eve said.

Villanelle pulled a face. ‘Neither was mine?’

‘That’s literally child abuse.’

‘Oh. Really?’ Villanelle shrugged. ‘What I meant was; disappointment is an emotional cupboard.’

Eve blinked. ‘Ohhkay?’

‘Mm.’ Villanelle nodded, her eyebrows doing that sincere upwards slant thing they did, that either meant Villanelle was trying very hard to be nice or she was trying very hard to pretend she cared. Villanelle generally did the first one to Eve. ‘Dark. Cold. Isolating. Full of snacks.’ Villanelle frowned. ‘No, I think that last bit is wrong.’

‘Where – where did you learn that?’ Eve suspected daytime straight-to-TV-movies. More than once Villanelle had asked her to watch a movie about the ‘human condition’ and they’d ended up with something more on The Room (2003) end of movies than Room (2015).

‘I just know these things.’ Villanelle looked pleased with herself, and Eve supposed she should appreciate the effort.

‘Um, about this cupboard – ’

‘There were snacks Eve, it was better than my own room.’ Villanelle leaned down, offering Eve a view of her breasts, and Eve shut up. ‘Do I still have to be thirty-five?’



‘I just want to warn you,’ Eve said as they made up the spare room, ‘Mom loved Niko.’ She’d come in earlier to vacuum, found it done. Villanelle was a shockingly tidy person. Eve had assumed Villanelle had hired cleaners in Paris, but as far as she knew they didn’t have one now and she’d never lived in a cleaner home. She never saw Villanelle actually cleaning, and Villanelle never offered to help, languishing on the couch when Eve decided to test her commitment by looking on the tops of cupboards, but somehow Eve’s only consistent chore was the breakfast dishes and taking out the trash.

‘Pff.’ Villanelle rolled her eyes. ‘As a thirty-five-year-old, I can also grow a great moustache.’

Eve couldn’t stop herself running a finger over her own upper lip. ‘You’re being a real dick about this. You know I’m still older than that, right?’

Villanelle rolled her eyes, aggressively fluffing the pillow she’d just cased. ‘But you are very beautiful. I am haggard.’ She threw it at the head of the bed.

‘She won’t think you’re haggard. That was a joke.’ It wasn’t, not really. Her mother did struggle with the ages of anyone not Korean, on one notable occasion asking a twelve-year-old white boy in his first tux to seat them at a restaurant. Eve struggled to get the corner of the top sheet under the mattress, straining to lift it.

‘Hmm.’ Villanelle squinted at her. ‘Well, OK. What did he do that I can’t?’ Villanelle nudged Eve out of the road, untucking her efforts and doing a neat hospital corner.

Eve picked up the quilt from the floor, passing one of the top corners to Villanelle. ‘He was just nice to her, I guess. Courteous.’

‘Pfft. Nice. I can be nice.’ They walked the quilt up the bed, and Villanelle rearranged the pillows on top. ‘I am nice, in fact.’

‘He was a good host. Wine refills, cooking, you know?’ Eve watched as Villanelle took a step back, tilting her head before moving back in to move the right pillow an inch to the left.

‘Your mother has low standards. I can cook very well. I am basically a chef.’

‘Oh, really?’ Eve turned away to open the window so that Villanelle couldn’t see her smirk.

‘Yes, you love my cooking. I have even made croissants, once. Can Niko make croissants?’ Villanelle sniffed, cut across Eve before she could speak. ‘No, of course he cannot. I will cook for her.’

Eve turned back, watching Villanelle tucking the quilt into the bed end. ‘Oh, no, I thought we could order out, you know? Go somewhere nice.’

‘No, no I will cook. I will cook…’ Villanelle tapped her chin, as if in thought. ‘Korean.’

‘You will not,’ Eve said. ‘That’s offensive. I think? Maybe.’



‘Well, what does she like?’ Villanelle threw her hands up, the very picture of fed up. ‘I am not doing anything Russian or American. We come from culinary backwaters.’

‘That’s a bit rude? America has some good food. Apple pie. Don’t say anything anti-American to Mom, she won’t like that.’

Villanelle’s lip curled. ‘The truth is not always polite.’

Eve rolled her eyes. ‘How about a curry?’ Her mother had loved Niko’s food, but Niko had steered clear of trying Indian or Thai cuisine, favouring the local takeaway joints.

Villanelle pursed her lips. ‘Very well. That will be almost too easy, for me.’

‘Well, I’d hate to put the chef out,’ Eve said.


‘What should I wear?’ Villanelle said, greeting Eve in the hallway when she got home.

‘What?’ Eve shrugged off her jacket, slipped off her shoes.

‘When your mother comes?’ Villanelle twisted her hands together, and Eve will later blame her long day for why she took that as a genuine sign of distress rather than an obvious act.

‘Oh, you look great in everything, you know that.’ Eve smiled, reaching out to take one of Villanelle’s hands, untangling it from where it was trying to strangle the other.

‘No, I want to get it right.’ Villanelle turned and led her into the living room, where she’d laid out several different outfits. Several may be an understatement. There are clothes draped over the couch, the TV, the coffee table, bags that don’t look empty shoved around the edges of the room. Villanelle could probably start her own store with this inventory, might need to, considering how full their closet already is.

Eve gaped, the part of her that would always worry about money dying a little. ‘Did you – are these all new?’

Villanelle pulled a face, like it was a stupid question. Which, Eve thought, it was. ‘I’m not going to wear something old for your mother, Eve, that would be disrespectful.’

Eve huffed, taking a seat on the armrest of the couch, the only free space. ‘She’s never seen you before, she wouldn’t know.’

Villanelle shook her head, turning and picking up a gorgeous, deep blue dress from where it’s handing over the TV. ‘But you would, and I would hate for you to think I don’t care.’ She holds the dress up against herself, swaying her hips to show the way the fabric catches the light.

‘Just so you know, you sound really sarcastic,’ Eve said, rubbing between her eyes with a finger.

Villanelle shrugged a shoulder. ‘You’re mistaken.’

Eve grimaced. ‘Right. Well, that’s nice.’

‘This is for you,’ Villanelle said. She brought the dress over, laid it over Eve’s lap.

‘I’m not dressing up,’ Eve said. She ran a hand over the fabric. ‘I will keep this, though.’

‘What do you think of this?’ Villanelle picked up a pastel pink pantsuit from the coffee table, that Eve feels like she should have paid more attention to. It had big gold buttons and bigger shoulder pads, the collar rounded and the pants wide cut. It looked like something the Queen might wear.

Ah. Of course. Eve smiled. ‘You could probably pull that off. It looks very thirty-five. Very office administration.’

Villanelle’s nostrils flared, jaw tightening. ‘I will wear it.’

‘OK. I don’t see the problem.’ Eve let her fingers run over the dress again.

‘I promise you, Eve, I will wear this.’ Villanelle scowled, and Eve imagined for a second her mother coming around with Villanelle dressed as Elizabeth II, complete with the hat.

She sighed. ‘What do you want me to do? Call Mom and tell her I lied?’

‘Yes. That’s exactly what I want.’

‘I can’t.’

Villanelle pursed her lips, holding the outfit at arms-length and looking at it. The fight seemed to leave her in stages, shoulders slumping, pantsuit lowering. ‘Neither can I,’ she said. ‘Fine. I will find something else.’

‘Are these all – ‘ Eve looked around the room, for the first time taking in the sheer number of different patterns, the woollen cardigans, the three-quarters sleeves. ‘Old people clothes?’

‘Only the ones I have out,’ Villanelle said. ‘I still might wear one of these, you know. They are not quite as hideous.’

‘You’re ridiculous,’ Eve said.

‘It’s called being eccentric when you’re my age.’


‘You should call her Mrs Parks,’ Eve said. ‘She likes the politeness.’

‘OK,’ Villanelle said. They were sitting at the dining table, in view of the kitchen, where Eve’s efforts at a soup was bubbling away on the stove. Villanelle had her chin resting on her hand, eyes resting on the notepad Eve had shoved at her, long fingers curled loosely around the pen, bored, Eve could tell.

Eve had only lured her into the kitchen with the promise of food, trapped her with the promise of really good sex, later Villanelle, after you’ve listened.

Unlike her house with Niko, their house together was all clean lines and white, caked over with expensive and beautiful things that Eve would be worried about touching if she didn’t live here, nothing out of place. The kitchen was no exception, the faucets gold and gleaming, a painting that was all just colours, splashed against one another on the dining room wall. Villanelle had taken to having plants inside after Eve had brought home a peace lily one day, and greenery splashed out everywhere. Eve had assumed the slightly rumpled, homey style was hers and Niko was just living in it, but it turned out she didn’t really have a preference for her surroundings, so long as they were comfortable to sit in.

Villanelle’s tastes were very comfortable.

‘That’s to take notes,’ Eve said, pointing.

‘I am taking mental notes,’ Villanelle said, not lifting her gaze. ‘My memory has actually improved with my old age.’

Eve sucked in a breath. ‘Take some real ones. We only have a couple of days left to prepare.’

‘I don’t need to study to make your mother like me,’ Villanelle said. ‘How manipulative.’

‘Take notes,’ Eve said through gritted teeth.

Villanelle rolled her eyes, slipping her chin off her hand and hunching over the paper. Eve watched her scribble against the paper, before holding it up. ‘What do you see?’

Eve sighed. ‘A flower?’

‘Mm. Like the ones in the park.’ Villanelle smirked. ‘People like me learn in different ways, you see.’

‘That’s a daisy,’ Eve said, dry. ‘There aren’t any daisies at the park.’

Villanelle turned the paper, frowning at her drawing. ‘There is a park somewhere with this flower. I will remember.’

‘Can you take this seriously?’ Eve snapped.

‘Not really,’ Villanelle sighed, bottom lip sticking out a little. ‘You are being very dramatic.’

I’m being dramatic?’

‘Yes.’ Villanelle shrugged, resuming her drawing.

Eve closed her eyes, counting to ten. ‘This is important to me,’ she said, instead of you had a five-step plan to murder the next-door neighbour after his dog peed on our fence.

‘You have nothing to worry about,’ Villanelle said, looking up at Eve. She smiled, a broad, bright, clear expression. ‘Oh, Mrs Parks, how lovely to meet you. Here is your beautiful curry, and isn’t your daughter so amazing? I saw a documentary last week about elephants, they’re my favourite.’ Her smile dropped away, eyes back to the page. ‘See?’

Eve paused. ‘Are elephants really your favourite?’

Villanelle snorted. ‘No. But they are cute. I like their ears.’ She started to draw one, from what Eve could see, a fat cartoon elephant frolicking under the flower. Eve gritted her teeth. She was losing her.

‘How about I make you up a file?’ Eve said, pushing her chair back. ‘So, you can read it on your own time.’

Villanelle screwed up her nose. ‘Like homework?’

‘Sure. You don’t wanna pay attention right now, so I’ll go make you some homework.’

Villanelle narrowed her eyes, tipped her head to the side. Eve could practically hear her thinking, was sure she’d appealed to her need for attention, sure she’d won. ‘OK,’ Villanelle said. ‘I will take the homework, please?’

Eve bit the inside of her cheek. Shit. ‘You don’t think it would be more fun, doing it this way?’

Villanelle shook her head. ‘No. You go write down everything I need to know, and I will read later, OK?’

‘It’ll take a while.’

‘That’s OK. I will make sure the soup does not burn, and I can just masturbate.’ Villanelle grinned at her, fucking grinned, showing all her teeth. Goading.

‘Fine.’ Eve stood. ‘Fine.’

‘I’ll be thinking of you,’ Villanelle said, turning her attention back to the paper.

‘I’m sure,’ Eve muttered.


‘Konstantin says hello.’ Eve jumped as Villanelle yelled from the bedroom.

‘Uh, hi?’ she yelled back, taking their coffees and walking back to the bedroom.

Villanelle was sprawled on the bed, but scooted over, taking her coffee from Eve with a small smile.

‘What’s he want?’ Eve mouthed.

Villanelle shrugged, an exaggerated motion that threatened to spill her coffee. She rolled her eyes at something Konstantin said.

‘That is terrible advice,’ she snapped, before saying something in French. Or maybe Italian.

Eve sipped at her coffee, flipping open her laptop to where she was halfway through writing the notes up for Villanelle. The document was twenty pages long, but she had headings and a contents page, so it wasn’t like it was over the top.

‘No,’ Villanelle said. ‘You’re not helpful at all. Goodbye forever.’ She hung up and dropped the phone into the middle of the bed.

Eve looked over, taking another sip of coffee. ‘Was that serious?’ You never could tell.

‘I texted him about meeting your mother, and he called to tell me not to,’ Villanelle said. ‘I said you would be upset if I didn’t.’

Eve considered it, looked back at her laptop, at the wordcount. ‘Well, I mean, you don’t have to.’

‘I thought you wanted me to?’ Villanelle furrowed her brow.

‘I don’t. I don’t want either of you meeting each other, but it’s happening, so.’ She shrugged.

Villanelle blinked. ‘Oh,’ she said. ‘Well, I don’t have to.’

‘She’s staying here for the night,’ Eve said. ‘I mean, you could rent a hotel room, if you wanted.’ She tried hard not to make it sound like a plea, and was just lucky that Villanelle seemed too distracted by something in her own head to notice.

‘OK.’ Villanelle tapped a finger against her coffee mug. ‘He then said I should be myself, if I was going to do it.’

‘That is terrible advice,’ Eve said, laughing. ‘I don’t think my mother wants to meet an assassin.’

Villanelle didn’t laugh, didn’t smile. She rolled her eyes instead, lips curled up in a sneer. ‘No, she wants to meet a thirty-five-year-old, what, accountant?’

‘Office administrator.’ Eve sighed. Like it was hard to remember that.

Villanelle scoffed. ‘Right. Wow, so much better than me. So interesting.’

Eve frowned. ‘Wait, are you upset?’

‘No,’ Villanelle snapped. She tried to get out of bed, kicked the blankets off. Eve grabbed her laptop to stop it flying.

‘Watch out.’

Villanelle didn’t say anything as she stood, exiting the bedroom in something that was a lot like a huff.

Well, Eve thought. It’s not like she hadn’t known Villanelle would get upset about portraying a relatively boring thirty-five-year-old, but there wasn’t anything she could do about it, not if Villanelle insisted on being here. Eve had made their bed, and Villanelle lied for a living, so they would get through it.

She continued with her dossier until it was time to get ready for work.

‘Have you read your homework?’ Eve knew that she hadn’t, the file somehow having collected dust overnight. Eve had a suspicion that Villanelle had actually put the dust on it herself, as some kind of point, but she had no proof.

‘It’s your mother, Eve,’ Villanelle said, applying mascara, lips slightly parted. Eve hated how even when she was mad at her she wanted to kiss her. She was wearing a green shirt and check pants, looking put together and professional next to Eve’s jeans and baggy sweater.

‘Is that a yes or a no?’ Eve said, after a moment.

‘It’s a yes.’ Villanelle widened her eyes, shaking her head in that small way that meant Eve was being unreasonable.

‘OK, what’s your birthdate?’

‘You don’t know my birthday?’ Villanelle pouted, turning to face Eve.

‘The fake one,’ Eve said.  

‘You don’t trust me.’ Villanelle had the nerve to look sad, to try and make Eve feel bad.

‘What is it?’ Eve tapped her foot on the ground – the wrong thing to do if Villanelle’s cold look was anything to go by.

‘I can’t work if you don’t trust me,’ Villanelle said.

‘Read it, Villanelle. Or I’ll be mad.’

Villanelle’s smile was of the cat-in-the-cream variety. ‘Ooh.’

‘In an unfun way.’

Villanelle shrugged, turning back to study her face. ‘You’ll be late.’

‘Read it.’

‘Alright, alright. I’ll read it. Again.

Eve heard her scoff ‘thirty-five’ at her reflection as Eve left. A sense of dread settled over her.

Eve hugged her mother at the airport, and for all she’d been worried about this, she was glad to be held. She felt some of her tension ease away with the familiar scent of her mother’s perfume.

‘Eve,’ her mother smiled, taking a step back and touching Eve’s cheek. ‘You look well.’ Eve had forgotten how short she was, or maybe she’d actually shrunk, and Eve felt a tinge of guilt for having left it so long between visits.

‘Thanks, Mom. You do too.’

‘It’s been such a big couple of years for you. You should have come home.’

Eve shifted under her mother’s gaze. ‘Well, work, you know.’ She gestured, and they started to walk towards the baggage claim.

‘Still. Divorce is hard.’ Jung-hee shook her head, patting Eve’s hand. Eve bit her tongue to avoid saying, getting shot was harder.

‘It’s for the best,’ Eve said. ‘We weren’t happy.’

‘I liked Niko.’ Jung-hee sounded vaguely judgemental, though Eve wasn’t sure if it was against her or Niko.

‘You’ll like Villanelle,’ Eve said, trying to inject some certainty into her tone.

‘I just don’t think you can be a lesbian.’

And just like that, Eve’s tension was back. She flushed as a man walking past raised an eyebrow at her. Fuck you, she thought. ‘I’m bi,’ she said, loudly.

Her mother waved a dismissive hand. ‘People don’t like both,’ she said.

Eve bit the inside of her cheek. ‘Mom, come on. Can’t you just support me?’

‘I’m meeting her, aren’t I?’ Jung-hee sniffed. ‘But I can’t pretend to understand.’


They walked the rest of the way in silence, Eve trying to keep herself from yelling, her brain mulling over what she wanted to say. She couldn’t believe she was closer to fifty than forty and having to have this conversation with her mother.

She knew she owed her mother a lot, for moving from Korea to get a better life for her, for supporting her through school, for helping pay for her and Niko’s wedding. But god if she didn’t already feel like putting her on the next plane back.

‘So, why such short notice?’ Eve said after they get to baggage claim, trying to find some neutral ground. ‘You never told me.’

‘Judith is visiting Madison, and Terry couldn’t come.’

‘Oh. I didn’t know she was here?’ Eve tried to move the conveyor belt with her mind, will her mother’s bag here quicker.

‘We don’t talk enough for me to tell you about the next-door neighbours.’  

‘Yeah. That time difference,’ Eve said, trying for a chuckle and getting a cough. ‘So, you’re staying with them the rest of the week?’

‘Yes. Madison is in London properly, so it will be better for sightseeing.’

‘We’re in London proper,’ Eve said, hoping her mother doesn’t share her opinion about their location with Villanelle. Villanelle had fought very hard to go closer to the city, only won over by Eve’s insistence that being on less CCTV footage was a good thing, given the year they’d had.

‘Not really.’

The conveyor belt started with a screech, and Eve only barely avoided doing a fist pump.


Eve opened the door, waving her mother into the hallway, bright, white, modern. Her mother stepped inside, and Eve dragged her suitcase behind, shutting the door.

‘It’s very… clean,’ Jung-hee said. ‘Not as inviting as your last house.’

Eve was barely paying attention, noticing instead how quiet her home was. She froze, wondering for an insane moment if Villanelle was going to pop out and surprise them. If Villanelle was perhaps not there, having run out at the last minute. She could smell the curry, stomach rumbling as the smell wafted up her nose. At least whatever happened, there was food.

‘Uh, Villanelle?’ she called. ‘We’re back.’ Her mother shuffled in the hallway, looking to her for guidance.

‘Oh, great!’ Villanelle sounded strangled.

Eve paused. She kept hold of her mother’s bag and started up the hallway, the bag loud against the wooden floors. Villanelle suddenly appeared, poking her head out from the kitchen.

‘Hi,’ she said, voice so loud it almost echoed in the small space.

‘What – what?’ Eve managed, as her mother moved to stand behind her.

Villanelle looked deranged, mascara running down her face from her bright red, bloodshot, watery eyes. Her broad smile only made her look Joker-esque, the large knife she was holding adding to the appearance. Her shirt, neatly pressed and tucked when Eve left, had clearly been the victim of some spill, a blotch of orange on the shoulder, one side untucked and rumpled.

‘Welcome, welcome, lovely to meet you, Mrs Park.’ Villanelle squinted down the hallway at them both, like her eyes were causing her trouble. She waved the hand with the knife as she opened her arms wide, taking a step into the hallway.

Her mother didn’t say anything, and Villanelle just switched her grin on Eve. Eve could see the bandaids on her finger, now, a shiny burn on the back of her hand.

‘Are you – are you OK? Your face – ‘

Villanelle scoffed, wiping at her eye with the back of her hand. ‘Yes, of course, come in, come in.’ She waved them down the hall with the knife, before seeming to realise what she was doing and tucking it behind her back.

Eve took the first steps, her mother trailing after her as though she would rather run back out the door.

Villanelle stepped aside to allow them into the kitchen-dining area, the dining area still set how Eve had put it, wine glasses gleaming, cutlery spotless. The kitchen, however, was a nightmare zone.

Somehow, Villanelle had managed to get curry on the ceiling. A blob of orange dripped to the floor as Eve watched.

‘Uh.’ Eve tried to hide the mess from her mother with her body, Villanelle still smiling beside her like a lunatic. ‘Mom, this is Villanelle.’

‘Pleasure, Mrs Park,’ Villanelle said, sticking out her hand. It had black streaks on it from her mascara. Jung-hee reached out after a moment, gripping it very lightly, letting go quickly. ‘I made curry. I am a very good cook.’

‘How nice,’ Jung-hee managed. ‘Where’s the bathroom?’

‘Oh. Uh. Upstairs, to the left,’ Eve said, watching her mother hurry out of the room before turning on Villanelle.

Villanelle manoeuvred away from her in such a way as not to get curry dripped on her head, looking for all the world like this was a normal way for the kitchen to be. She took the lid off the curry, stirred it. ‘How was traffic?’

‘What happened?’ Eve hissed, coming up behind her, having to grab the kitchen counter as she slid a little on something on the floor. Maybe a piece of onion. ‘Did – did something happen?’

Villanelle didn’t answer right away, instead popping her pinkie finger into the curry and tasting it, giving a satisfied hum. ‘It’s good,’ she said.

‘Oh my God.’ Eve grabbed her shoulder, tried to get her face close to the other woman’s. ‘What happened?’

Villanelle wouldn’t look at her, eyes roaming around the kitchen. ‘Oh, you know.’ Eve could see that the mess was, in fact, bothering her by the way her red, red eyes lingered on the stain on the ceiling, lips thinning a little.

‘No, I don’t know! Please, Villanelle, just tell me.’

Villanelle took a deep breath, and finally met Eve’s gaze. ‘An assassin.’

‘Here?’ Eve clapped a hand over her mouth as the word erupted like a scream. ‘Are you OK?’ She wondered if it was her or Villanelle who’d been followed, if there were more coming.

‘It’s OK. I took care of it.’ Villanelle attempted a reassuring smile, ruined a little by the makeup streaking across her face.

Eve turned, trying to remember where they’d put the passports. She knew where her real one was, but the fake ones… She really should know, what if she and Villanelle were separated and she was stabbed prying up their floorboards, trying to find the loose one that hid them? ‘We have to leave, we can’t – ’

‘No, no it’s fine.’ Villanelle put a hand on Eve’s shoulder, tugging her back to look at her. ‘It was just a random assassin, nothing to worry about.’

Eve’s thoughts paused over trying to figure out if Australia or New Zealand would be a better place to hide out. She frowned. ‘A random assassin?’

Villanelle’s mouth twisted down, eyes drifting from Eve’s. ‘Yes.’


‘Yes?’ Villanelle’s eyes widened, as if Eve’s question was unnecessary. She shrugged, holding up her hands. ‘You know, home invasions are very common.’

‘By assassins?’ Eve said, voice flat.  

‘Yes. Eve, I really don’t know what to tell you.’ Villanelle breathed out a laugh, scrunching up her nose. 

Eve folded her arms, raised her eyebrows. ‘What’s wrong with your eyes?’


‘Have you been crying?’

Villanelle looked away, chewed on her lip. ‘I wouldn’t really know.’

Eve narrowed her eyes. ‘Villanelle.’

Villanelle narrowed her eyes back. ‘Home invasions are very scary, you know?’ She couldn’t have sounded less convincing if she’d tried.

‘Hey – ’ Eve tried to take her hand, but Villanelle pulled it away, grabbing a tea towel.  

‘Dinner is served!’ she yelled, making Eve jump. Eve turned, to see her mother standing in the doorway and looking similarly disturbed.

Villanelle used the tea towel to grab the pot and swept it away to the table, plopping it in the centre on a cork mat. Eve took a deep breath, plastered on her own smile and motioned her mother to come in, come in, sit down while she got the wine.

Villanelle looked up towards Eve at the sound of the fridge opening and suddenly froze, staring behind Eve in a kind of horror. Eve felt a jolt of fear, wondering if perhaps the random assassin was, in fact, real, before she turned and realised Villanelle was just staring at her own reflection in the dark glass.

‘Oh.’ Villanelle threw a dark look at Eve, before giving Jung-hee a tight smile. ‘Excuse me, Mrs Park, I must… freshen up.’

Eve’s mother just nodded, watching as Villanelle practically fled the room. ‘Is she nervous?’

‘Yes. She, uh, she’s normally much more… controlled.’ Eve pulled the wine from the fridge, and gestured to the section of the room not splattered with curry, trying to distract from the sound of Villanelle literally running up the stairs. ‘She has a real appreciation for interior design, don’t you think?’ Eve winced at her awkward wording, meant to say, Villanelle has an eye for the finer things.

Jung-hee sniffed, eyes on the colour painting. Eve could tell she wasn’t impressed – her mother had never really liked art. Neither did Villanelle, Eve wanted to say, she just liked the colours, they don’t mean anything.

‘She’s, uh, great though, don’t you think?’ Eve asked as the silence dragged on.

‘She seems… tall,’ Jung-hee said, after a moment of deliberation.

Eve bit her lip. ‘Give her a chance.’ Eve took her mothers glass, pouring her some wine. She was a bit more generous with the pour for herself, and much less generous with Villanelle’s.

‘I am,’ her mother said. ‘What is this?’

‘Uh, chardonnay,’ Eve said. ‘It goes with the curry.’

‘Hmm.’ Jung-hee sniffed at the glass, before setting it down without drinking.

Eve raised her glass in a mock “cheers”, took a sip. Well, more than a sip. A chug, really.

She could hear Villanelle coming back down the stairs, and Villanelle entered the dining room a moment later. Her face was clear of makeup, and she’d changed into a beige shirt. She looked a little rattled, a crease between her brows. ‘You should have started,’ she said, coming around the table to sit by Eve.

‘Not without you,’ Eve said.

Villanelle smiled with only the lower half of her face. ‘How sweet.’ She stood again and started to dish out the curry and rice, giving Jung-hee a huge mound, fit for three people.

‘Oh, I – ’ Jung-hee started, stopping when Villanelle plopped the bowl down regardless. ‘Thank you,’ Jung-hee said.

‘Of course, Mrs Park. My pleasure,’ Villanelle purred, passing Eve her own stacked bowl. Villanelle’s eyes still looked raw, and she blinked more than usual. ‘I heard you like curry, Mrs Park?’

‘What kind is this?’ Jung-hee said, poking at the orange mass.

‘Butter chicken,’ Villanelle said, sitting with her own bowl, ‘Mrs Park.’ She flicked her eyes to Eve, raising her eyebrows as if to say see how polite I am. Eve barely contained her groan.

‘I prefer Thai curries,’ Jung-hee said. Eve suddenly realised who she’d gotten her lack of survival instincts from.

Villanelle smiled again, like a shark. ‘Perhaps next time, Mrs Park,’ she said, watching as Jung-hee took a bite. The way her eyes lingered, Eve figured it was even odds Villanelle was waiting for a compliment or waiting for her mother to drop dead.

Jung-hee’s expression remained flat and unimpressed. ‘You don’t like heat, Villanelle?’

‘Oh, the hotter the better Mrs Park, but we had no chilli.’ Villanelle glanced at Eve, as if to say her fault.

‘I bought chilli,’ Eve said, miffed. ‘It was in the fridge.’ She had a bite of the curry. It wasn’t bad, even with the lack of heat.

Villanelle screwed up her nose. ‘If we had chilli, it would be in the curry.’ Her voice had an edge, and she shovelled a huge mouthful of the curry into her mouth, cheeks bulging.

‘So, Villanelle, do you like your job? It sounds… busy,’ Jung-hee asked.

Villanelle paused. ‘Pardon?’ she said around the curry, voice muffled. ‘Mrs Park.’

Oh. Oh. Eve felt the anger settle in her chest. Villanelle hadn’t read the file. She took another swig of her wine.

Jung-hee wrinkled her nose to see the mess in Villanelle’s mouth. ‘Do you enjoy your work?’

‘Uhhhh. It’s not very interesting,’ Villanelle said, with a chuckle, very deliberately ignoring Eve’s glare. ‘We don’t need to talk about it.’

‘But, you’ve been in it for a while?’

‘Uh, it’s, you know, the start of a career, so.’ Villanelle nodded with her whole body, shoulders moving emphatically, lips pressed tight together. ‘My career which is starting at thirty-five.’

‘Perhaps I was mistaken in what you do…’

‘Being an office administrator for MI5 isn’t exactly unaccomplished,’ Eve cut in.

‘Ah. But, it is very uninspiring,’ Villanelle said, raising an eyebrow at Eve. ‘To the point of being almost forgettable.’

‘It’s pretty easy to remember,’ Eve snapped. ‘It’s an important job.’

Villanelle raised her eyebrows, looking down into her bowl. ‘Oh, I’m very sure.’

Eve’s mother pressed her lips together, turned her attention to Eve.  ‘How's Niko?’

Eve tipped the rest of her wine down her throat, reached for the rest of the bottle. Villanelle was looking at her out the corner of her eye. ‘I haven't seen him for a year.’

‘Shame.’ Jung-hee took another delicate bite of the curry.

‘Not really,’ Villanelle muttered.

Jung-hee ignored her. ‘I just don’t know why you two broke up,’ Jung-hee said, voice taking on a wheedling tone. ‘It was so sudden. I liked him.’

‘I know, Mom, you said.’ Eve patted Villanelle’s shoulder. ‘Now, you have Villanelle to like.’

Villanelle smiled, mouth once again full of curry. ‘I’m very likeable, Mrs Park.’ she said. Eve realised that she’d done this to herself, that she should have sent Villanelle away, booked her a fancy hotel somewhere with some spending money. ‘Did you know that Niko had complaints made about him at the school? I haven’t been accused of having sex with fifteen-year-olds.’

Jung-hee looked at Eve, face finally moving from unimpressed to something else – shock.

‘It was nothing. Just someone with too much time on their hands,’ Eve said, not looking at Villanelle. Villanelle hummed, as if in disagreement.

‘Well. That’s… I’m glad it was nothing,’ Jung-hee said. She cleared her throat. ‘Um. Have you always dated women, Villanelle?’  

‘Yes.’ Villanelle smiled.

‘How did your parents react? I didn’t think Russians were in favour of that sort of thing.’

‘Mom, come on,’ Eve said. ‘That’s kind of personal.’

‘I’m just making conversation,’ Jung-hee said.

Villanelle pulled a face. ‘Well, they’re dead, but my mother would definitely be rolling in her grave.’ She grinned. ‘I don’t care, though. They were – ‘ She cut off as Eve kicked her under the table. ‘They were lovely,’ she said, voice dripping with sarcasm.

‘But you don’t care about them?’ Jung-hee sounded incredulous, and Eve wondered if it was a dig at Eve, rather than Villanelle.

Villanelle looked very much like she wanted to roll her eyes, pulling her lips to the side instead. ‘Well, if I cared what dead people thought I wouldn’t get out of bed. I know a lot of them.’

Eve wondered if she could pay her to shut up.

‘Eve’s father is dead,’ Jung-hee said. ‘I wouldn’t do something he wouldn’t approve of.’ Yep, that was definitely a dig, Eve thought, taking another drink. Maybe her father wouldn’t have been any better.

Villanelle waved one hand. ‘I hope for your sake he was more fun than my parents, then.’

Eve kicked her again, and Villanelle shot her a look that once upon a time would have made Eve cower under the table, but now just annoyed her more.

‘Did you watch a movie, on the flight?’ Eve said. ‘Villanelle loves movies.’

‘No,’ Jung-hee said. ‘I slept.’ She poked her curry around the plate, before taking another sliver. Villanelle watched her with a conflicted look on her face, while Eve refilled her own glass. God, god, god.

There was silence for a time as Jung-hee continued picking at her food, Eve continued drinking, and Villanelle shovelled food in.

‘I get a lot of sleep,’ Villanelle said finally, leaning back with her bowl empty in front of her. ‘It keeps you wrinkle-free, you know.’

Eve rubbed her brow. ‘That’s nice, honey,’ she said, a warning edge to her voice.

‘I mean, I just feel at least five years younger, maybe even seven, but I’m not,’ Villanelle said, staring at Jung-hee as though willing her to comment. ‘People say I look younger, though,’ she prompted.

‘Jesus Christ.’ Eve put her head in her hands.

Jung-hee smiled politely back, putting down her fork. ‘Well, we can’t all age quite as well as Eve.’

Eve stood, bashing her knee against the table as Villanelle’s face cracked into outrage, drawing her mother’s attention. ‘Dessert? Yes? Villanelle, help me get dessert.’

Villanelle dropped her fork, letting it clatter to the table. ‘OK. Alright. OK,’ she said, breathing out a laugh, tearing her gaze away from Jung-hee. Eve grabbed her bicep, tugging her into the very corner of the kitchen.

Eve shook her head as Villanelle opened her mouth. ‘You are not allowed to murder my mother,’ Eve whispered. She opened the fridge, pulling out the cream and the half-made crumble, the cooked apples sliding around the bottom of the container.

‘Just a little bit,’ Villanelle hissed back, reaching around Eve to grab the butter.


Villanelle pouted. ‘She is being disrespectful to you.’

‘We both know you're just upset she bought the thirty-five thing,’ Eve said, turning and getting the flour, cinnamon, and brown sugar from the cupboard.

‘I can be upset about more than one thing at a time.’ Villanelle sniffed.

‘Well, what I want to know is, why can you be charming to marks, and then you’re so off tonight?’ Eve got out the bowl, measured out the flour.

A cloud passed over Villanelle’s face, making her look suddenly miserable, the red eyes only highlighting the sadness. She had taken a knife from the drawer, their last clean one by the looks, clutching the butter with her other hand. ‘I’m trying to be myself, Eve.’

‘Well, it’s not working,’ Eve whisper-snapped. She refused to be manipulated. Eve took the knife and the butter, cut off a chunk.

Villanelle looked angry now. ‘Well, maybe, if you didn’t come up with such a lame backstory I could – '

‘Stop letting your ego get – '

‘What am I even meant to talk about? Printers? How to conference call? Paper quantities?’

‘What do you think you do?’ Eve hissed. She diced the butter emphatically, knife scratching lines into the chopping board.

‘I don’t know!’

‘You should have read the file!’ She put the butter in the flour, slid the bowl over to Villanelle.

Villanelle shook her sleeves back up her arm, rubbing the butter into the flour. ‘You try reading when you have ch- tears, many tears, in your eyes from being a victim of a home invasion.’

‘You’re ridiculous. And if you think I believe that story, you’re also stupid.’ Eve folded her arms, watching Villanelle work.

‘It’s not my fault you didn’t do an audiobooks version, is it?’ Villanelle paused, blowing a strand of hair from her face.

‘Fucking. Ridiculous,’ Eve hissed. ‘You can’t even keep it together for one night.’

‘Are you two alright?’

They turned to find Jung-hee studying them, her brows drawn into a tight frown.

‘Never better, Mrs Park,’ Villanelle said.

Eve took the bowl from her, finished the crumble topping in record time, and slipped it into the oven. ‘Let’s move somewhere more comfortable,’ she said. She grabbed another bottle of wine from the fridge, tipped the remaining chardonnay into her glass, and led the others into the living room.

Villanelle went straight for the couch, flopping into the middle. Her mother picked the comfy armchair to the left, and Eve took the sliver of couch free of Villanelle closest to her, ready to get between them if necessary.

‘How long have you been in London?’ Jung-hee asked, eyes on Villanelle.

‘Uh. Well, let’s see. I’m thirty-five, and I moved at twenty-six…?’ Villanelle said. ‘Give or take.’

‘You still have a very strong accent,’ Jung-hee said. It was a point of pride for her mother, how much she’d gotten rid of her accent in the years since moving to America.

Villanelle’s smile was the stuff of nightmares. ‘I am proud to be Russian,’ she said, dry, over-rolling her r’s. ‘We have great hats.’

Jung-hee doesn’t seem to know what to say to that, taking a sip of her wine. Eve felt like laughing, which meant the wine had hit.

Eve took over the conversation, rambling about the house hunting, the garden, the art-finding, their trips to France, Spain, Belgium.  

‘How do you afford all this?’ Jung-hee finally said.

‘What?’ Eve said.

Villanelle didn’t say anything, picking at a thread on one of their cushions with a mutinous look on her face.

 ‘Where did you get the money? Is this divorce money?’

‘Ha!’ Villanelle scoffed. ‘You think Niko makes enough money to afford this?’ She twisted an arm behind herself to touch the silk throw draped over the back of the couch. ‘Niko can only dream. He is not a provider.’

Jung-hee frowned, looked at Eve. ‘Have you used all your savings, Eve, for this affair?’

‘It’s not an affair, Mom, it’s my life, now.’ Eve put a hand on Villanelle’s leg, telepathically willing her not to cause an even bigger scene.

Jung-hee shook her head, and Eve was surprised to hear worry in her voice. ‘This is some mid-life crisis. You’re living with a, what, twenty-five-year-old secretary, and buying gold faucets and silk rugs? Be reasonable, Eve.’

Eve blinked, while next to her the fight went out of Villanelle.

‘Oh,’ she said, placing a hand to her chest, face screwed up in gratitude. ‘I knew I didn’t look thirty-five.’

‘Villanelle. Could you give us a moment?’ Eve said.


‘Goodbye, Mom,’ Eve said, holding the taxi door open for her mother. She was trying her hardest not to cry. They hadn’t really spoken after Villanelle had flounced from the room, looking happier than she had a right to be, beyond Eve saying ‘this was a mistake’, her mother agreeing, and the cab being called.

Jung-hee sighed. ‘It’s hard to get used to. I feel like I don’t know you, anymore.’ She gestured to the house. ‘I don’t know any of this.’

‘I''m still me. You were just rude,’ Eve said, ignoring the way guilt clawed at her chest. ‘Really rude.’

‘You’ve been lying to me,’ Jung-hee said, stern. ‘And I’m sorry but Villanelle is… very strange.’

Eve couldn’t disagree, but made a show of disapproving. ‘She just, she’s Russian.’

‘Is she a spy?’ Jung-hee’s eyes narrowed, and Eve thought for the first time that maybe her and Villanelle could get along, if the right conversation happened. 

‘You know I can’t tell you that.’

‘Well.’ Her mother took a deep breath, shaking her head. ‘Just so long as you’re really happy.’

‘I am,’ Eve said. She was surprised by how much she meant it, even with how terribly the night had gone. ‘And I’m not being, gold-dug or whatever you think.’

‘OK.’ Jung-hee lowered herself into the taxi, and Eve went to shut the door, before stopping.



Eve didn’t know if she really wanted to ask, rushed the words out. ‘Would Dad be rolling in his grave?’ She thought she knew the answer, wondered what life would look like if she was wrong.

Jung-hee smiled, gentle for the first time in years. ‘Nothing you do would disappoint him. We both love you. I just... need time. It was a shock.'

'I love you too,' Eve said, closing the door before her mother could see the tears welling up in her eyes.


Eve wiped her eyes and headed back inside, towards the kitchen where she could hear Villanelle moving around. She was balancing on one of the dining chairs and rubbing at the orange spot of the ceiling. Eve leaned against the doorframe, watching her, the novelty of seeing her clean.

The apple crumble had been pulled out of the oven, left to cool on the dining room table, untouched. The dishes and the rest of the kitchen are clean already.

‘What happened, tonight?’ Eve said.

Villanelle looked down at her. ‘I don’t know what you mean.’

‘Come on. What happened to your eyes?’

Villanelle pursed her lips. ‘You’ll laugh.’

‘No,’ Eve said. She didn’t think anything could make her laugh, right now.

Villanelle sized her up. ‘I got chilli in my eyes,’ she said, solemn.

Eve had been wrong. She turned her snort into a cough, willing herself not to smile. ‘Really?’

‘Yes. I went to go touch up my makeup, you know, while waiting, and I forgot I hadn’t washed my hands.’ Villanelle sighed. ‘It was incredibly painful. I was actually very brave about it, in retrospect. Very tough.’

Eve looked at her feet, putting a hand to her mouth to capture her smile. ‘I’m sure. So, we did have a chilli?’

‘Yes. But the halves dropped on the floor while I was trying to wash my eyes out in the sink. I knocked a few things over, actually. You trod on the chilli, earlier.’ Villanelle sounded suspicious. ‘It nearly claimed a second victim.’

Eve closed her eyes against the laugh threatening to ruin her relationship, tried to focus on the serious parts. ‘It’s not like you do your makeup twice.’

Villanelle resumed scrubbing at the ceiling, biting at her lip. ‘I wanted your mother to like me,’ she said.

Eve could count on two fingers the number of times Villanelle has cared what someone thought of her. ‘Why?’

‘Because it seemed important to you.’ Villanelle rubbed more viciously at the orange stain. ‘And I wanted you to stop being embarrassed of me.’

Eve sighed. She had been a little harsh, a little on edge. ‘Well, just some of the things you say without context – ‘

‘Not tonight.’ Villanelle scowled down at her. ‘All week you’ve been telling me I need to change.’

Oh. Eve thought back, to the number of lies she’d asked Villanelle to tell, about her life, her interests. That fucking thirty-page file of new interests that would somehow keep her mother from disapproving. ‘I didn’t think it would bother you, to be someone else for a night.’

‘Well, it did. I am great, and someone should want their parents to meet me.’ Villanelle stepped down off the chair, tossing the wet rag into the sink. ‘Goodnight.’

‘Villanelle – ’ Eve reached out, but Villanelle shrugged her off, stomped up the stairs.



Eve woke to the sound of Villanelle making coffee in the kitchen – which meant Villanelle wanted her to hear. She groaned, pressing her hand to her forehead and rolling onto her back. Her head pounded. She probably shouldn’t have polished the second bottle off last night.

She’d fallen asleep in her clothes on the couch, taking off her pants to feel the silk against her skin. The apple crumble sat on the coffee table, a spoon in it, and she grimaced to see she’d polished off a full third of it.

‘Morning,’ Villanelle said, barging into the living room. Eve winced at how loud she was being. ‘I made you coffee.’

‘Thanks,’ Eve said. ‘I thought you’d still be mad at me.’ She curled her feet up to give Villanelle room, tucking the silk in around her legs.

‘I’m not interested in arguing all day,’ Villanelle said, sitting on the end of the couch, passing the mug over.

‘Thanks,’ Eve said again, propping herself up against the cushions and taking a sip. ‘I’m sorry I upset you.’

Villanelle shrugged. ‘I’m over it,’ she said.

‘Well, I am sorry. It’s not that I’m embarrassed about you. I’m not. But, I can’t really tell her that we met after you stabbed my best friend to death, can I?’

‘It’s a better story than we met at work,’ Villanelle said, pouting. ‘But fine.’

Eve chewed on her lip, wondering how to broach the subject. She decided not to beat around the bush. ‘If it’s any consolation, I did tell my dad about you.’

Villanelle blinked. She looked intensely uncomfortable, eyes darting around the room before she reached some kind of resolve. ‘Eve,’ she said, voice low and serious. She reached out, placed a hand on Eve’s knee, made steady eye contact. ‘You know he’s dead, right?’

Eve rolled her eyes. ‘God. Yes. I mean, I have conversations with him in my head, and some of them are about you. The truth, about you.’

Villanelle leaned back, studying her. ‘OK?’ she said. It was clear she wasn’t sure how to take this, her face confused.

‘I think he would like you,’ Eve said.

Villanelle’s brow furrowed. ‘And that means something to you?’ she said, slowly.

‘Yeah,’ Eve said. ‘It means a lot. It means… I’m not embarrassed.’ 

‘Alright,’ Villanelle shrugged. ‘I accept your apology.’ She drank some coffee, trying her best to ignore the way Eve continued looking at her expectantly.

Finally, she cracked. ‘What?’

‘Do you have something to apologise for?’

Villanelle tipped her head to the side, face screwed up in thought. ‘No?’ she said.

‘You didn’t read the file.’

‘That wasn’t my fault.’ Villanelle gestured at her own face. ‘I was incapacitated.’


‘Fine.’ Villanelle threw up her hand. ‘Fine.’ She chewed on her lip. ‘Are we seeing her again?’

‘I’m going to lunch with her before she goes, if you’d like to come,’ Eve said.

Villanelle pretended to think. ‘I don’t have to be thirty-five, do I?’

‘No.’ Eve smiled. ‘I’d rather you were you.’