One year later
Villanelle sauntered through Red Square on her way to the softball stadium. She was meeting Eve. Spring term of her first year would be finished in a month. She was happier than she could’ve imagined being a student. Eve convinced her that learning random stuff about random stuff was not a waste of time so long as she enjoyed it. She wasn’t sure if she would find a calling, but Eve pointed out she didn’t have to. Even more surprising to her than the fact that she liked going to uni was how she looked forward to having lunch with friends she’d made from her classes--even though most of them were only 18 or 19 years old. She’d gravitated toward those who seemed more mature, maybe a little more serious—which was hilarious all by itself. She felt herself relaxing into being real around someone other than Eve.
Eve jumped out of her ride share, got their tickets for the game, and waited for Villanelle. She was happier than she could’ve imagined working for Ann’s company. Turns out her skills were what Human Resources types called transferable. Her immediate co-workers were smart, some with arid senses of humor. The teasing about how she’d landed a younger, hot girlfriend had mostly subsided now that her work friends had hung out enough with Villanelle and Eve. Villanelle’s willingness to really commit to performance on karaoke night helped win them over.
And they had a cat—an orange cat with a white bib and white socks. Villanelle adored him and Eve adored that Villanelle adored him. One of Eve’s co-workers had asked if anyone could take her mother’s cat—mom was moving to assisted living. Eve brought him home one Friday night. When Villanelle saw the cat carrier on the kitchen counter with Eddie inside, she turned and walked quickly into their bedroom. Eve followed, unsure what was happening. She found Villanelle sitting on their bed, trying not to ugly cry, but failing. All Eve could think to do was sit down and hold her hand. Eventually, Villanelle was able to tell Eve that she didn’t want to upset Eddie by crying in front of him, but that her tears were happy tears. Villanelle and Eddie were inseparable—wherever she was in the house, there he was. At night, he slept next to her feet. Eve wondered if her cat Freddy had been reincarnated to make Villanelle happy.
They heard from Catherine, in addition to her report that Eve’s mother looked perfectly fine. She sent an encrypted message with an article in an obscure security newsletter with a single sentence: Thought you might be interested. The most reasonable conclusion to be drawn from the piece, they both agreed, was that The Twelve had been put out to pasture. Although no names were named, it appeared that Carolyn may have, in her inexorable way, destroyed them. Eve marveled at that for weeks. Eve concluded that whatever Carolyn had gotten from her entanglement with The Twelve vanished when Konstantin murdered Kenny. In that moment, her singular focus became obliterating them.
That was three months ago. They talked about whether it was safe for Eve to go see her mother and decided it was. Anne and Ann were coming to Seattle at the end of June for a few days and offered to fly them to London on Ann’s plane when they returned. Anne was certain that UK Customs officials wouldn’t bother them at the smaller airport where Ann hangered the plane when it was in the UK. Anne had flown in and out enough that she was familiar to the bored customs staff.
“Hi, babe,” Eve said as Villanelle joined her at the ticket booth. “Hi, Eve,” Villanelle said with that perfect smirk.
Villanelle inhaled her two hotdogs before Eve had taken two bites of hers. Before Villanelle could say anything, Eve staked her claim. “Yes, I’m going to eat all of it.”
The game ended in five innings—the mercy rule—with the home team winning 9-0.
Eddie’s bowl was empty when they got home; Villanelle hurried to give him dinner while Eve made theirs.
After dinner, Villanelle tried to study while Eddie walked all over the book she was reading until he finally settled in her lap. Eve had gone grocery shopping. Villanelle paused and looked out at The Mountain. Stars had aligned, prayers had been answered, fortune had smiled—Villanelle didn’t believe in any of those clichés but embraced them all. Villanelle didn’t know if this life she was living was normal or not; it felt good—she felt good—in a way she’d never felt before. And she continued to feel good. Eddie woke up and head-butted her chin. She kissed his furry face.
Six weeks later
Eve was undeniably anxious. She and Villanelle were somewhere over Canada. Ann and Anne were in the cockpit. Eve was trying to seem cool, but not succeeding. Villanelle knew it, though—wanted Eve to feel better.
“Do you want to ask your mother to come live with us?” Villanelle asked.
Eve looked at Villanelle. This woman never stopped surprising her. “Seriously?”
Villanelle nodded slightly. “Yes. You are her only family, except her sisters in Korea—and, well, me. I am her daughter-in-law. Pretty much.”
Eve had introduced Villanelle to her mother before they’d skipped the UK, coming out of the closet about their relationship, explaining that she loved Villanelle. It was a lot, but the last thing she said before Eve and Villanelle left was: You are my only child. Be happy.
Eve looked out the window, but took Villanelle’s hand and held it, firmly. “I’ll think about it,” she managed to say, swallowing a couple of times. Later, after Eve seemed to have settled, Villanelle went to the galley where she discovered Ann’s staff knew a thing or two about stocking a kitchen. She took back a tray loaded with food. Villanelle thought of Eddie who was being tended to by Ann’s housekeeper—a perk they’d decided to retain after Ann made clear that her housesitting offer came with weekly housekeeping. When Eve looked up to see the meal she was bearing and their eyes met, Villanelle stopped, time suspended for a moment. This wasn’t the first time she’d felt the (almost) stabbing joy of her love for Eve, but it was the first time at 30,000 feet. She’d been too exhausted on their flight to Seattle to feel anything but relief with a side salad of residual unease.
Twenty-four hours later
Operation Eve’s Mum was underway. Catherine masquerading as a ride share driver picked her up. Catherine knew within a few kilometers that they didn’t have a tail but was taking no chances. She drove into an underground parking garage at a shopping center where a van bearing the name of a local plumber waited. Eve’s mother got into the back of the van and it left through a separate exit. Catherine drove out the way she’d come in.
Eve and Villanelle were waiting in Ann’s apartment. Catherine would rendez-vous with the plumber’s van in the apartment’s parking garage and deliver Eve’s mother to her anxious daughter and almost daughter-in-law.
When the door to Ann’s apartment opened, both Eve and Villanelle jumped up. Eve’s mother came in. Catherine stuck her head in long enough to verify Eve was there, nodded, and shut the door. Eve took two steps, her mother took two steps, and they just held each other. Villanelle’s vision got blurry. And, although Villanelle had a year of university Korean language classes under her belt, including practicing with Eve, she couldn’t really follow what they were saying. They were hugging, talking over one another, and … crying. Eventually, mother and daughter settled down next to each other, holding hands.
They continued to speak Korean. Villanelle settled back in her chair, letting her mind wander over the last year as the two most important people in the world—wait, Eve’s mother was one of the most important people, because without her—no Eve. Villanelle chuckled to herself at the conscious realization of something she’d known since forever.
Eve had stood up. “I’m making some tea. Would you like a cup?” Villanelle blinked and said, “Yes, please.”
Eve’s mom turned her attention to Villanelle switching to English. “Remember what you promised me?” she asked.
Villanelle nodded, “Yes, I remember.” Make her happy; keep her safe.
“You kept your promise. I hoped you would, but I did not know you. Will you make the same promise today?”
“Today and always.”
“My Eve is not easy.”
She is to me. She is as easy as breathing. “I know, but to me she is.”
Eve’s mom nodded her head. “Good. That was the right answer.”
Villanelle sighed. Not one of her sarcastic sighs, or a “WTF just happened” sighs, but a real sigh of relief. Eve set the tray with tea and biscuits down, quirking an eyebrow at the look on Villanelle’s face. Villanelle just grinned.
Halifax same day
Elizabeth and the children were due to arrive at Crow Nest any minute for their summer holiday. Every day would end perfectly, as far as the children were concerned, because Anne would read to them—stories now of adventures, so real in Anne’s telling.
Anne was no longer flying, regularly. She was an instructor at the airline’s training school. She still flew in that role, but only once every few weeks, and then, almost always out and back the same day. The training program was between terms—she had a few weeks off until the next term began.
Later that day
Anne and the children had ridden horses out to the Walker pond where they’d promised to catch dinner. Ann and Elizabeth were hanging out on the patio.
“When are you going to make an honest woman out of Anne Lister?” Elizabeth teased.
“Hold that thought,” Ann replied. She came back in a few moments and handed Elizabeth a small box.
“Wow, it’s beautiful. She’ll love it. When will you ask her?”
“Tomorrow. I know her morning walking route. I’m going to surprise her near the end.”
“Got any butterflies?”
“Honestly … no.”
“Why should you? She’s still besotted with you—how many years later?” Elizabeth asked.
“It’ll be five years ….”
“Yes …,” Elizabeth interrupted. “New Year’s Eve …. I’m glad it worked out. Better to have December 31st as a day to remember instead of trying to forget.”
“Amen,” Ann said firmly.