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Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

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Oksana Astanokva, otherwise known as Villanelle, was the fashionable, respected heiress to the Twelve. It was widespread, well-known company specialising in a wide array of areas, including politics, properties and other, decidedly more secretive professions of which Villanelle knew nothing of. 

She was merely a pawn in larger games, Tatiana Astankova’s prized puppet. Tatiana’s husband had been director of the Twelve before his untimely passing, where Konstantin Vasiliev had taken over until Villanelle had married a man to inherit her fortunes. He was large, intimidating, yet somehow approachable with a kind twinkle in his eye, no doubt from the constant presence of his daughter, Irina. Villanelle looked to her as a sister, and to Konstantin as family, especially as he wasn't so focused on marrying her to an unattractive, boring man as her mother was. Said unattractive, boring man was Aaron Peel. Villanelle had hated him with all her being from the moment they met, seeing him as controlling and arrogant, all things she hated. His constant presence reminded her that she wasn't as free as she once was, no longer a child allowed to do and make friends with who she wishes.

Walking up the ramp, over the choppy water, her mother behind her and Aaron leading ahead only reminded her of her predicament; trapped from all sides. She looked up and the tall, overwhelming sides of the Titanic blocked her view of the sun as she stepped inside the shiny, new first class corridors, lined with vanished, mahogany borders and no doubt expensive paintings by up-and-coming artists.

Villanelle always had an appreciation for art, but her true passion was fashion. She had become known for it in London, always attracting the eyes of young paper boys and the young men on their way to work the mines. For her they were easy to ignore, as she only had eyes for the ones with long hair, long dresses and eyes decidedly not filled with invasive, longing desire. She’d tried desperately not to, but she was simply born the opposite way to most people, and had been berated for it all her life.

'Perfect, isn’t it? Fine art is hard to come by these days, especially with the 'modern styles' people are wearing these days. And the bright colours everywhere...’ Aaron said, leading them down the corridor, Villanelle hanging off his left arm like a rag doll.

She shrugged, taking in the pristine whiteness of the walls, plush patterned carpets and gleefully imagining the sheer displeasure of her mother’s face trailing close behind her.

'Okasna!’ Tatiana scolded, as they approached their suite, seemingly spanning the length of half the corridor. Villanelle paid her no interest as Aaron opened the door, taking in her prison for the next week or so. The suite was easily the size of her old Paris apartment, with as many as six doors off the main room. There was space for Aarons paintings, furniture with expensive fabrics, relatively high ceilings and a small crystal chandelier in the centre. All the things she used to want were in this room, but under the artificial lights and quiet din, it reminded her of how naive she used to be.

'Ah, our Oksana will soon learn to appreciate what she has, isn't that right Ms Astankova?’ Aaron asserted. The underlying threat passed through Villanelle's mind; she acknowledged it, then moved along to the luggage where all her clothes had been stored, and were now being emptied by the porters who had brought them along prior. She picked up a dress, bright pink and had already decided to change. This was her favourite dress, coincidentally Aaron’s least favourite, but if she was going to be trapped here for seven days, she may as well wore clothes she liked to settle in. Villanelle could feel Tatiana's disapproving glare at the back of her head once again as the hairs on her neck stood up, but paid them no mind as she focused instead on her outfit, planning how to enrage Aaron further without endangering herself too much – she’d heard the stories.

‘If you’re planning to change dearest, you’d better do it quickly. The ship's due to leave soon and if you’re going to be up on deck I want you looking perfect. There's no point if you aren’t perfect' he said, already putting away his treasured safe. She was sure he would put that safe before anything, no doubt herself and probably his own life too, God knows what was in it.

 

---

 

Eve Polastri had been travelling around Britain after her husband Niko died, with her good friends Bill Pargrave and Elena Felton. All the money she had from Niko's death was spent quickly on cigarettes and alcohol, and occasionally the odd hotel from or paper and pen. Eve discovered at an early age writing was her passion, but Niko disapproved of women sharing their opinions and felt the art of literature was for men. She couldn’t say she was all that sad when he died. Sure, she acted like the good wife, wearing the blacks of mourning and respecting his name, but inside all she felt was the relief of freedom.

Her and Bill had been good friends for years, Niko of course disapproving of their close relationship despite it being purely platonic. So, when he heard Niko had died he sold his company and investments in America, and invited Eve to follow him East, to explore the world. She jumped at the oppourtunity, giving Niko’s small shoe shop to one of his friends, Hugo, then heading straight to the first ship across the Atlantic. That also happened to be the place she met Elena, leaving America for something more, despite the fact that she had no plans. The three of them quickly became inseparable as you would expect, spending every hour together partying, defying stereotyped expectations and overall not caring about what the world thought of them.
That all changed when Bill saw the advertisement for The Titanic, the unsinkable ship. ‘Ladies, I’ve just had the most amazing idea,’ he announced to the small lodging where they were staying.

‘Bill, you know we don’t want to go to Scotland! The weather in England’s dreary enough already, mate’ Elena said, Eve giving a nod of agreement from the bed, nursing a hangover.

‘No, I’ve moved on from that, although I still stand by Aberdeen!’ Seeing the looks on their faces, he not-so smoothly changed topics. ‘Have you ever heard of the Titanic?’

‘Of course we have,’ Eve said, ‘It’s literally all anybody’s been talking about for months. To be honest, I’m surprised you haven’t drawled on about how its unsinkable already.’

‘Well, I think we should go.’

Elena and Eve looked at each other, then back to Bill. ‘No’

Unhindered by their stubbornness that he had grown used to, he carried on. ‘Come on! We’ve never been to New York, and we can always come back whenever we wish, it’s not like we can’t hitch a ride on a ship. And Eve, I know you’ve always wanted to see Alaska, don’t deny it.’

‘Bill... You know we don’t have much money left, we’re hardly getting by any more as it is.’ Eve said, sensing the conversation wasn’t going to end anytime soon. She shrank back under the covers, prepared for another attempt at convincing her to spend what little money she had left on a ticket on what seemed to her to be a perfectly average ship, though a little larger.

Elena too, shared the same sentiment. Before Bill could carry on again, she threw a pillow at him from her bed on the opposite side of the room to Eve, with a resounding ‘No’

Three months later, Eve found herself carrying two heavy bags on her back and a ticket held inbetween her teeth, pushing her way though crowds of people with Bill ahead of her, and Elena behind. Running late as always, they stuck tightly together as they often did as inseparable friends, the pungent smell of fresh paint and sea salt standing out from the usual smog of cities they had been in previously. With seconds to go and the first of the ramps being pulled into the ship, the horn of the Titanic blared loudly in her ears, spurring Bill along faster.

‘Faster Bill!’ Elena shouted, pushing Eve onwards from behind. As the three of them reached the last remaining ramp, they were stopped by a man in a navy uniform, checking tickets but getting ready to pull the ramp back at a moments notice. They ran on swiftly before he had the chance to.

‘Quickly now! Have you had your bags checked?’
‘Yes,’ ‘Of course,’ ‘Obviously,’ the three said in unison, panting from exertion.

After a pause, the man said ‘Alright then, tickets please.’ Eve fumbled with her bags, affected by his disapproving look of their tardiness as she grabbed the ticket from between her teeth. ‘Here’ she muttered, handing it over along with Bill and Elena’s.
‘On, and be fast. You wouldn’t want to delay the ship would you now?’ The man said, ushering the three off the ramp and into the third class corridors. As the ramp was pulled from behind them, they made their priority rushing to the top deck, still with all their luggage. As much as Eve hated to admit it, she was looking forward somewhat to America. Even if her and Niko were never completely happy, for a large portion of her life after her parents died, he and Bill were all she had. Being on the road for a year had taken it’s toll; she craved the comforts of home, even if she wasn’t sure what that was anymore.

‘Come on Eve!’ Elena exclaimed, dragging her up the many flights of stairs. Eve knew Elena secretly looked forward to America. Her parents were still there, owning a fair sized farm and shop from what she’d heard. As much as she loved travelling with her newfound friends, Elena would always be tied to home like Eve never would be.
Out of breath once again, the three emerged from the stairs, all but ran through the corridors (spurred on by Elena’s yells) and pushed their way through the smaller crowd on the deck to the railings of the enormous ship. Eve leaned from the side of the ship, bracing herself on the railings, and quietly took in what might be her last sight of England. She wasn’t afraid to admit that she would miss it. The past year was one of the best years of her life, even if all she really did was party like one would on a gap year. Elena on the other hand was yelling her lungs out, deafening poor Bill with ‘I’ll miss you!’ and ‘I’ll always love you!’ earning more than a few stares.

Eve looked around at the crowd surrounding them, her eyes following along to the next level up - the first class passengers. Not many were outside, seeing themselves above the standard of yelling off the side of the ship. A few people took her eye; a young man in a fine cut suit, standing next to a taller, middle aged woman looked out to sea, the opposite way of everyone else; a few women in unpractically large dresses accompanied by men, all looking out over the city; and a blonde woman. She stood next to a tall man who was looking out over the deck unlike everyone else, but this woman was looking out to sea, just like the first pair she noticed. She was too far away to make out any detail, but this woman was clearly above any first class passengers – not by her looks, or stature, but Eve just knew. She also knew she had been caught staring too long when she heard Bill chuckle beside her, following her gaze to the seemingly untouchable woman. That was when she turned.

 

---

 

Villanelle was staring out to the ocean, reflecting on her life choices and undesirable future, as one often did. She stood up straight, playing the part as Aaron’s little fiancée Oksana, and looked over to the third class deck where he was also looking. She knew she should be looking down on them, but she did always have compassion for the poorer folk. She definitely knew she shouldn’t be looking down on them when the first thing she laid her eyes on was a woman with amazing hair, all trapped up in a bun, comparable to the goddess Aphrodite. She was too far away to see who the woman was, but despite being laden with bags and with hair like that, Villanelle knew she was something else. The woman quickly turned her head to the taller man standing next to her, away from Villanelle who felt a sudden sense of loss at the absence of her mere gaze. That feeling was amplified when Aaron placed his hand on the small of her back, bringing her closer to him.

‘Disgusting, aren’t they Oksana? They live like pigs.’ Aaron said, no doubt trying to get a rise out of her, testing her.

She knew better than to play against his rules where everyone could see, and instead complied with ‘Yes, they’re not as civilised as us. They shouldn’t even be on the ship.’

Aaron hummed his approval and held out his arm for her to take, a sign they were to return to their room. She took it, and slowly started to make their way back inside as the ship started to move with the current. ‘Don’t forget Oksana, I can make your life a living hell if you ever betray me.’

Villanelle didn’t know if she had been caught staring, but that one sentence alone made her feel more trapped than ever before. She was stuck on this ship with Aaron Peel, with nobody else except her detatched mother, the woman on the deck nearly completely forgotten. Before she was betrothed to Aaron, she could feign sickness and retreat to her room, or mingle with other guests at parties to get out of seeing him. Now she was well and truly entangled, not in a web of lies, but in a web of duty. For life. She took her last look at England, and braced for the next few days, stuck hundreds of miles away from land, in a prison that she felt was made especially for her.

 

---

 

It hadn’t even been a day and Villanelle was already reaching her breaking point, as high as it was. She found herself running along the side of the ship after what could only be described as a disaster dinner.

 

(Fifteen Minutes Earlier)

Villanelle was dressed up, ready for the evening meal where she would have to endure meeting more rich people than she cared to know. A long red dress, red gloves and tall black heels, with her hair pinned back behind her ears. Perfect.

Ever since seeing the woman earlier, Villanelle couldn’t shake her from her mind. She knew it was wrong, her mother had told her so throughout her life. From the day her mother had suspected of her longing for her French teacher, Anna, she made sure Villanelle never had any thoughts of a woman in that manner again. It worked, until Tatiana found her in bed with Nadia, her neighbour, which truly slapped her into reality. She would never be accepted by her mother, nor anybody else for that matter, so she would have to play the part of somebody else. Oksana would be who she was known as, but inside she was always something else.

‘Come on now dearest, or we will be late for dinner.’ Aaron said as he hurried her along with Tatiana who was already waiting to go. She lost her train of thought and smiled brightly, taking Aaron’s arm and making her way down the grand staircase to the main dining room.
She played her part well, allowing gentlemen’s pervasive stares and pretended to pay attention to who any of these people were. All she could think of was how she desperately wanted to know the woman with dark curly hair, tied up in a bun. As she met more and more people, all she could do was remind herself about how it would never happen. About how she was trapped here, on Aaron Peel’s arm for the rest of her life. She wanted to make her own decisions again.
Her breathing became l

aboured as she started to panic, but she kept up her poker face. She would never make her own decisions again. She remembered the time where she could read what she wanted, fuck who she wanted, had the prospect of being who she wanted.. Now her life no longer belonged to her, and she just wanted to feel something again. It was at this point she stopped being able to breathe properly, her lungs burning and eyes wet, vision blurred with tears.

Her mother interrupted her train of thought, ‘Oksana, meet Carolyn Martens and Kenny Stowton. Kenny designed the ship you know? Such a talent..’ She couldn’t listen any more, turned and bolted through the dining room, muttering quick apologies at people she passed. As she ran she could hear the blood rushing through her ears, her heartbeat echoing through her chest and sobs crying out without her consent. She could hear her mother shouting after her, and Aaron saying ‘Must be that time of the month. Women’ but she couldn’t care less, pulling her hair out of the multitude of pins as she ran. She didn’t know where she was running, but her feet took her outside, still running.

 

---

 

The ocean was cold, crisp and calm as Eve sat outside, laying across a bench, paper in her hand and a pencil between her teeth. She was trying to find a new muse for a new story, but couldn’t piece anything together. The only thing that kept coming to mind was the woman from earlier today. Why couldn’t she stop thinking about her? Why was she so special? Sure, Eve was interested in the ‘fairer’ sex, but only fleetingly and it was never more than a quick glance as she passed them by. This couldn’t be a second chance at love, or at least whatever her and Niko had... The woman had a paramour anyways, that man she was stood next to. Could it? Queerer things had happened. Or, maybe...

Eve’s train of thought suddenly blew away like a wisp of smoke as the sound of thundering heels passed by her head, the distinct sound of crying accompanying them. She arched her head, curious as to who it was, and saw a figure in a tight red dress, with long blonde hair waving in the strong, Atlantic winds.

The brunette reluctantly stood up of her surprisingly comfortable bench, set down her paper and pencil, and slowly walked to the back of the ship, empty except for the two.

The woman was still crying as far as Eve could tell, leaning too far over the rails to be safe. If it was the middle of the day, somebody would pull her back, but there was only Eve. She then stood up on the first rail, then the second, and the third until the was stood at the top, using the flagpole as support. How Eve thought how the blonde could do that in heels, she had no idea. She then sat down on the rails, legs dangling over the edge. Eve knew this could only go two ways, and she was now pivotal to what would happen in the next few moments. It only took one sob from the girl to remind Eve that she was dangerously close to falling over the edge, and that she should probably step in, about right now.

‘Um, hi..?’ She said, kicking herself for not being more forward, but also not knowing what else she should say. She had never been in this situation before.

‘Step back!’ The blonde said. ‘I’ll do it!’

‘No! I mean, you shouldn’t.’ Eve didn’t know why the woman was feeling like this or what she planned to, being the opposite of the composed goddess she saw on deck before. ‘I’m Eve.'

‘Oksana. Call me Villanelle.' The woman said. Villanelle. She liked it.

‘Well, can I ask what you’re doing, sitting on the back of a ship at this time?’

By this time Villanelle’s sobs had stopped, and she turned her head to Eve. Somehow, Eve thought, she was the most beautiful woman she had ever seen, even with makeup running down her face, and rouge hair stuck to her cheeks. Any doubts Eve privately had about her identity were gone, as she recognized the blonde from the deck earlier from that day in a heartbeat despite their previous distance. It seemed Villanelle recognized Eve too, although she couldn’t be sure behind the tears that threatened to spill from hazel eyes.


‘Well, I’m just admiring the propellers of course. Please, walk away. Don’t look back’ Villanelle said. Not that easy, Eve thought.


‘Can I join you?’ She said, surprising even herself. Without waiting for an answer, she closed the distance between her and Villanelle and climbed up onto the railings on the opposite side of the flagpole. She sat down, refusing to look down and instead focused entirely on Villanelle. Eve noticed her features one by one; full lips, defined jaw, cat-like eyes with a such depth she was sure she was gazing into both heaven and hell at the same time. On the other hand, Villanelle refused to look at Eve, her head turned back to the horizon.

‘Do not go gentle into that good night.’

‘I’m sorry?’

‘It was something my mother told me before she passed away.’ Eve said. ‘I always remember it if I’m feeling particularly low, staring death in the face, or hanging off the back of a ship it seems.’

Villanelle took a moment to form a sentence. ‘Well, we’re hardly hanging, Eve. We’re sitting.’ She smiled, though it didn’t reach her eyes. ‘I like it. I never thought I’d die falling off the back of a ship until five minutes ago.’

Eve laughed, despite the solemn mood. She could hear voices a while behind them, and it seemed Villanelle did too as she turned her head back, then around again to the sky. ‘Well, I guess we should get off this railing before someone finds us, no?'

Eve nodded, and climbed back over clumsily, almost landing on her back. Villanelle was slower in that dress, where Eve thankfully didn’t have as many layers. She held out her hand for the blonde to take. Villanelle looked her in the eyes, hazel connecting to brown. She turned her body, and began to climb the railings. Suddenly, one foot slipped and a heeled shoe dropped a hundred feet to the depths of the ocean. Eve was faster though, and grabbed Villanelle’s arm with both hands as the blonde’s other hand grabbed onto the railing.

‘Eve’ she screamed, sounding more vulnerable than Eve would have expected from the clearly taller woman. Eve heaved on Villanelle’s arm, that became two, then her waist.

‘I’ve got you.’ She said, at this point dragging her over the rail. It was also at this point the voices became shouts, calling out for whoever was there. They both landed on the floor, Villanelle on the floor and Eve on top of her. They were both taking heavy breaths as they had just run a marathon, each not taking their eyes off the other.

‘Oksana!’ A voice called, low and angry more than worried. A taller man at a quick pace came up from the lower deck, accompanied by a short woman with more jewels than Eve had seen in her life around he neclk alone.

‘Aaron,’ Villanelle said under a low breath. Clearly he wasn’t welcome, but of course he made himself so.

‘Who are you?’ Aaron said, looking down to Eve as though she was a sewer rat. To him, of course, she was. ‘What on earth are you doing on top of my fiancée?’

‘Aaron, wait. This isn’t what it looks like.’ Villanelle practically shouted. Her breaths started to become uneven again, as she clearly panicked beneath Eve who removed herself from the somewhat incriminating position.

Aaron looked to Eve, as did the older woman. ‘She’s right. There’s an explanation to this.’ Eve said, mentally kicking herself for what felt like the tenth time that night, at her completely useless words.
‘Well, go on then.’

‘Aaron, she’s right. I was leaning over, to look at the.. at the...’

‘Propellers!’ Dolphins! Eve should have gone with dolphins...

‘Yes, propellers. I leant over too far, and... and I slipped! If Eve hadn’t been here, I most certainly would have fallen to my death!’ Villanelle seemed more confident now as they had a sound story to explain Villanelle’s disappearance from the dinner. Eve just nodded along, feeling out of place in the conversation.

‘Well then , it seems you have my thanks...’ He seemed unconvinced, but at least humoured Villanelle.

‘Eve. Eve Polastri.’

‘Aaron Peel. It seems you have already meet my fiancée, Oksana Astaknkova. My I also introduce her mother, Tatiana Astankova. Well then, I think a twenty should do.’

‘No!’ Villanelle protested. ‘I mean, is that all my life is to you? Surely I’m worth more than that?’

Eve was happy to accept the twenty and move on with her life, hopefully catching mote glimpses at Villanelle in future, but secretly hoping fate would give them a reason to meet again. It seems Villanelle was thinking along the same lines as her.

‘Hmm, Oksana is displeased. What to do?’ Aaron uttered, looking to Villanelle as a predator would to it’s prey.

‘Well what does Oksana want, Aaron?’ Eve said, disliking Aaron even more than she thought she could after merely two minutes of knowing a person.
‘I just want to have dinner with you.’ She said, spoken more timidly than when she was hanging off the side of a ship. Villanelle looked to her feet, not looking Aaron in the eyes as he clearly would have expected.

'Well, that can be arranged. Tomorrow evening then... Eve.’ He said, disgust as clear as day in his eyes.

He moved to go, holding out his arm for Villanelle to take. She took it, looking up at him, then to her mother. Tatiana was a lot harder to read than Villanelle was, Eve not being able to decipher whether it was fear or anger in her eyes. Before Aaron had the chance to take a step, Villanelle turned, and took her time in studying Eve for the first time since she properly, truly met her. She smiled, and this time it reached her eyes.

‘Wear it down.’