Eve Sophie Abercrombie was born feeling different. She was also born second.
Eve’s twin brother Alex was the first of the pair to be hauled unceremoniously through their mother’s caesarian section incision, as he was lying anteriorly when the decision to proceed urgently with the surgery was made. Eve, in a separate—and unruptured—amniotic sac of her own, followed a minute later.
The sense of separation that Eve felt as she developed in the womb—of being close to, but distinctly separated from, her twin brother—continued throughout her life. To Eve, the outside world and other people always felt a little distant, and just out of reach . . .
Eve was frequently told throughout her life that she was born with a silver spoon in her mouth. Not surprising given her wealthy high-profile parents, Ken and Faye Abercrombie. Eve, however, always found this description to be both annoying and reductionist:
Born with a silver spoon in my mouth! What does that even mean? Mummy and daddy are rich and successful, sure, but does that mean my life is all shiny and wonderful? No! From my perspective, all I see around me are people who are more attractive, more talented, happier, and getting more love than I am. I really wish that people could see how hard it is to be me sometimes.
In fact, Eve Abercrombie was more likely to present the opposite view: that being born to wealthy high-profile parents offered no life advantage what-so-ever. She would even argue that it made her life pretty miserable. In truth, however, Eve would have been unhappy wherever she grew up—in poverty, or in abundance—as it was simply in her nature to be melancholy. Eve found getting motivated to do anything challenging at the best of times, and self-doubt was a debilitating companion that she carried with her through life.
Alex, on the other hand, was upbeat, positive, full of drive, and constantly busy achieving whatever he put his mind to. He was popular, enthusiastic, and successful, all of which Eve found to be exceedingly annoying . . .
Alex and Eve were IVF babies; they had begun their lives in a test-tube. Early on the twins had a third sibling, a sister—the third embryo implanted into Faye’s womb along with Alex and Eve—but she had died at around six weeks gestation. Growing up Eve would sometimes feel a vague presence, like someone standing quietly in shadow, when no one was actually there. During a rebirthing session later in her life, Eve reconnected with the consciousness of her lost sister, and the ghostly presence that had persistently haunted her finally made sense. From that moment on Eve would feel sad every time she thought about her dead sister, especially as no one—except perhaps her mother, although she would never admit to it—even believed she had ever existed.
Despite being fraternal twins, Alex and Eve maintained remarkably similar physical appearances throughout their lives. As babies, Faye would have to look twice—and sometimes even check what genitalia resided inside their nappies—to know if it was Alex or Eve who was crying for her attention. Even with the onset of puberty the twins continued to look eerily alike, and it was only Eve’s longer hair and small breasts that clearly differentiated them.
The twins were similar in many ways, mostly physical, but they were absolute opposites in many other ways, mostly temperamental. It was as if they were the left and right halves of something, like a pair of socks, or gloves. Alex inherited self-confidence, while Eve inherited self-doubt. Alex was up-beat, while Eve was moody. Alex was a high-achiever, while Eve could never quite finish anything.
Eve loved her twin brother unquestioningly, but he also infuriated her beyond measure. The thing she found most annoying about Alex was his capacity to be incredibly superficial. “I can’t believe you are my twin sometimes, Alex. How is it that you can be so uninterested in anything important or deep, yet so obsessed with yourself?” Without Alex, however, Eve knew for sure that she wouldn’t be alive; Alex had saved her life—literally and metaphorically—many times over the years.
When they were small, around three or four, the twins would sometimes dress in each other's clothes and pretend to be the other for a day. They learned a lot about who each other was through the innocence of this childhood exercise. Eve realized how difficult and unnatural it was for her to act positive and out-going, and how that energy and aliveness felt so foreign in her body. Alex learned how people tended to ignore Eve, or feel sorry for her because she was so sad all the time, and how they didn’t want to engage with her because of her moodiness and negativity.
Eve wasn’t sure when her melancholic mood had started, or where it came from, but it felt like it had always been with her. It wasn’t like it came and went either; it was constant. She could be having the best time—screaming wildly with excitement on a rollercoaster, or roaring with laughter while watching the funniest movie—but she could always feel the sadness lurking just beneath the surface. It occurred to Eve that when she had been made an important piece—the happy piece—had been left out. Maybe it was there, she thought, but it was defective, or had been put in the wrong way, or something.
Apart from Alex, and perhaps Yantra—the twins live-in nanny when Alex and Eve were little, and Eve’s closest friend in the world—Eve could honestly say that no one in her life, Ken and Faye included, truly saw her, or knew who she really was. Not all the way. The more Eve observed people, the more it seemed to her that everyone only saw their own mental versions of other people and the world around them, rather than the world as it actually was. As a result of this relative blindness of society, Eve thought, there was actually no chance that anyone could possibly ever truly know who she was, or how she was feeling. This realisation landed for Eve when she was about to turn fifteen, and as a result she developed an unnerving, all-pervading sense of being unseen by everyone. This made Eve feel even more like she didn’t belong anywhere, and that she didn’t matter. It also brought into consciousness some deep existential questions for Eve: Why is everyone is so self-centred? Why is there so much pain and suffering in the world? What's the point of life? Why should I keep on living at all? When Eve's omnipresent moodiness started to take on a darker tone, Faye, worrying about her daughter's well-being, suggested the Eve see a psychologist to talk things over. Eve turned down the offer . . .
Silver spoon or no, most of the twins' peers growing up were envious of Alex and Eve and their privileged life. Eve secretly loved living in their big penthouse apartment right in the middle of New Eden City. From her bedroom window she could look out over Central Park—her favourite place on earth—and the bustling, throbbing city that surrounded it. Yantra would take the twins into the park every day of the year, no matter the weather: heat, cold, sunshine, cloud, wind, rain, hail, or snow.
Eve’s happiest memories from childhood were of playing in the snow in Central Park on sunny winter mornings. Overnight snowfalls would turn the normally dull winter landscape into a magical wonderland. When this was followed by a morning of sunshine and clear blue skies, the visual effect was stunning. Eve recalled vividly the routine of rugging up in her heavy winter coat, fuzzy hat with earflaps, scarf, gloves, and gumboots, her body buzzing in anticipation. Once in the park she would run screaming with excitement from snowdrift to snowdrift, and flop onto her back to make snow angels. On these mornings, Eve would be filled with pure joy and wonder, and for a brief time the sadness was nowhere to be found. But the dusting of fresh snow that had turned the park pristine and vibrant would only last for a few hours before it all turned to slush, and Eve’s joyful mood would melt and fade along with the snow . . .
For their schooling, Alex and Eve attended The Dalton School: an exclusive co-ed private school across Central Park on the Upper East Side. Eve liked the concept of going to school because she really loved to learn, but she did not enjoy the actuality of being at school. The ever-present possibility of being the object of derision or bullying by other students meant that Eve suffered from almost constant anxiety throughout her twelve years at Dalton. Eve wasn’t actually bullied very often because she kept herself well off the nerd radar that the tougher kids seemed to possess. Occasionally, however, she would slip out into view by doing too well on a test, or receiving an outstanding grade for a homework project, or saying something that showed how smart she actually was. It was there, under the direct scrutiny of her jealous peers, that it became apparent just how different—and from their perspective, how irritating—she was from them. Eve would then become the target of taunting and humiliation. Eve could have been an outstanding student academically if she’d wanted to be, but she always made sure she was just a little behind the leaders to avoid this type of attention.
Dalton had a well-rounded curriculum which included excellent classes in the dramatic arts: drama, music, singing, dance. Eve tried all of these in her early years, and fell in love with each of them in turn. It slowly became clear to her that she had a passion: theatre. The only problem was that Eve didn’t believe that she was talented. Mostly she would sing to her hairbrush in the bathroom mirror, or dance with her reflection in the mirrors in the entrance hall of the Abercrombie’s apartment, but she was always careful to make sure that no one ever heard or saw her when doing so.
The year Eve turned twelve was the year she discovered Broadway. This momentous unveiling shifted her whole perception of the world, and for a while Eve’s life actually started to make sense. Here was an art form that expressed who she was—different, misunderstood, flawed, a misfit—yet somehow also celebrated these traits. Finally Eve had found a place where she felt like she belonged.
Eve started attending Broadway shows whenever she could—mostly with Yantra, but occasionally with Ken and Faye—and each time she would come away from the theatre feeling excited, thrilled, alive. Eve especially loved shows that depicted a tragic heroine discovering her inner beauty despite her seeming outer imperfections and obstacles. Eve’s favourite musicals, however, were the ones where a handsome prince would fall in love with an ordinary girl, and carry her away to his castle to live happily ever after. Of course, not all the Broadway musicals Eve saw contained this rather childish narrative, or were so predictable and formulaic, but in most there was a way that deep and often painful emotions were expressed openly on stage for all the world to see, but without any trace of shame about doing so. This felt so liberating for Eve; it gave her hope.
At school Eve tried out for roles in the musical theatre production that Dalton staged each year in the fall, but she was always so nervous at the auditions that she failed, year after year, to be given any significant parts. She started taking private singing, dancing and acting classes—one benefit of having wealthy parents, she had to admit—and her skills improved dramatically, but whenever Eve was up on stage, in the spotlight, her raging anxiety and self-doubt would re-surface, and she would give mediocre, uninspired performances. In the later years of high school Eve gave up auditioning entirely, stopped attending Broadway shows, and banished her passion to the trash bin of her life. You could say that Eve became a failed musical theatre performer even before she had made her debut . . .
Eve’s relationship with Faye was always a positive one, despite her pervasive negativity about almost everything else in her life. Eve would say that her mother was the kindest, most generous, and wonderful person she knew, and it was the truth. Eve loved Faye, but she also found her to be challenging because of the way Faye acted with other people. Eve felt that Faye had a tendency to try too hard to make other people like her. Being overly positive and optimistic just to make other people feel better about themselves felt fake to Eve, and when Faye was acting this way it would turn Eve’s mood negative very quickly. Luckily for Eve, as her teenage years progressed Faye spent more and more of her time supporting her increasingly famous husband, Ken Abercrombie, and the twins didn’t get as much of Faye’s personal attention as they did when they were younger.
Under Faye’s attentive care, however, Alex and Eve wanted for nothing. Admittedly the majority of the practical aspects of their upbringing were performed by Yantra—it was always Yantra who got up at 4am to give them a reassuring cuddle, or a feed—but the area of their life where Faye excelled was in making sure that the twins had everything they needed to succeed in life: a beautiful, comfortable, and safe home; abundant healthy, nutritious food; well-made and fashionable clothing; extra tuition to ensure excellent school grades; unlimited pocket money for the little extras they might desire. Faye wasn’t afraid of expressing her affection for her children, but the practical side of things was most definitely her forte.
Eve’s relationship with her father, on the other hand, was much less well developed than with her mother as Ken simply wasn’t around that much when the twins were little. Eve had vague memories from early childhood of a tall, shadowy figure—often smelling of cigarettes, alcohol, or unfamiliar perfume—sneaking into the twins’ room late at night, well after they had gone to sleep. Ken would give both Alex and Eve a good night kiss, then sometimes he would sit quietly on the end of Eve’s bed, staring at her for the longest time. Ken didn’t know it, but Eve always knew he was there. She loved it when he sat looking at her in the dark; her heart would swell, and throb pleasantly, and sometimes it felt so good she thought her heart was going to burst out of her chest.
If Ken was at home in the morning after Eve had gotten out of bed, he was either on the phone, or distracted by some work issue or another; it was really impossible for Eve to gain his full attention at that time of day. Weekends were usually full of political rallies and fundraisers, and Ken and Faye would often be away from home then too—in the late-2000s Ken Abercrombie was a busy man, and one very much in demand by the public and the press. The few precious moments in childhood that Eve had alone with her father, when she had his full attention, were like shiny pearls on a string of otherwise dull and uninteresting stones. These times, when Ken would sit Eve on his knee, look directly into her eyes, flash one of his huge smiles, and tell her a story about his life—most of which Eve didn’t understand until she was much older, and Ken’s complicated history started to make some sense to her—were the happiest, and most memorable, moments of her early life.
Faye insisted that the Abercrombie family took at least one holiday together every year. Eve never really understand why this was the case when she was young as these holidays were rarely enjoyable. They always seemed to involve a lot of traveling—usually to far-flung exotic locations—a lot of Ken getting drunk, and a lot of Faye and Ken arguing. Ken would then storm out of the hotel suite and not come back until the following morning, usually looking very seedy, then proceed to lock himself in his room alone until the evening. It felt to Eve like she saw her father even less on these holidays than she did when they were at home. Still, despite his frequent absence, and his erratic behaviour and displays of affection, Eve loved Ken with all her heart. More than she loved Faye, actually. She even loved her father more than she loved Yantra, and, at times, even more than Alex . . .
The year Eve finished high school she didn’t feel that going straight on to college was the right thing for her to do, so she asked Ken and Faye if she could take some time off from studying, and go traveling. The disappointed expression that flashed across Faye’s face was quickly disguised, and they both got behind the idea. Alex, who much like his father was driven to be as successful as possible as quickly as he could, had decided that he would go straight on to a pre-med degree at Stanford, so he was going to be out of Eve’s life for the first time that year anyway. It was natural that Yantra would accompany Eve on her travels to look after her, which suited Eve fine. By this time Yantra was very practiced at giving Eve the support she needed when she needed it, but also knowing when to give her space when that was what was needed.
Having given up on her early passion of performing, one possible plan for Eve’s future was for her to study art history, and to become involved in the art world in some role. Eve didn’t appear to have any particular talent to be an artist herself, but there was a way that beautiful art made her feel excited and inspired. Eve agreed with Faye that it could well be an appropriate area on which to put the main focus of her life. To this end it was decided that Eve should spend time touring Europe, visiting the major art museums and galleries there, and taking some art history courses in a casual, relaxed fashion . . .
The first stop for Eve and Yantra was Italy. Roma, Napoli, Firenza, Milano; Eve loved them all. Everything about the Italian culture seemed so much more refined than the crassness of New Eden and America.
It was in Italy that it first became apparent to Eve and Yantra that European men looked at Eve in a certain way. Initially Eve wasn’t sure why they were looking at her this way, and she felt uneasy, but when the attention continued unabated it started to make her feel good about herself for the first time in years. It was like these men were seeing the inherent beauty in Eve, and not the ugliness that Eve herself focused on. Yantra would generally have to point out their keen interest to her because Eve didn’t notice it herself. Yantra would also point out that the men were indicating that they wanted to get to know Eve more intimately. At only 17 years of age Eve wasn’t yet ready for the leap into womanhood that an affair with an older continental gentleman would have required, but the idea of it stirred intense feelings that she hadn’t experienced before, and they felt good in an unfamiliar yet pleasurable way.
What arose for Eve from these encounters in Italy was the kernel of an idea: that if the right man was able to see Eve for who she truly was, if he was able to see through the ugliness to the goodness of her innermost being, and if he was attracted to her enough to want to get to know her that deeply, then perhaps that man could love her enough to enable for her to feel truly loveable. The way this idea formulated in Eve’s mind was all very complicated, but when she really allowed herself to open to the idea, it felt completely exhilarating . . . and completely terrifying.
While Eve and Yantra were in Italy, Eve also started to discover how much she enjoyed shopping. Shoes, dresses, hats, scarves, sunglasses: the Italian style really seemed to suit Eve. Their luggage quickly grew, and Eve started leaving bags of her old clothes on the street next to homeless women and children. In retrospect, it was as if she was shedding her childhood on the cobblestones of these romantic Italian cities, and along with it her shroud of sadness. Slowly but surely a more beautiful and confident version of Eve started to peep its head out to greet the world. Hope started to surface in Eve, and one day she even caught herself smiling for absolutely no reason at all.
From Milan their itinerary took them by train through the Alps to Zurich. Eve found Switzerland to be a beautiful country geographically, but the people seemed cold and distant to her. She felt no warmth from them, and she and Yantra both felt unwelcome, so they kept moving. Next, they headed to Paris where they rented an apartment in St Germain. Eve discovered that she loved the Bohemian feel of this part of Paris—Rive Gauche, the left bank of the Seine—with its atmospheric and historic café’s and bookstores, broad angled avenues, and narrow rambling alleys.
“Ah Paris, je t’aime. If I was a city, it would be Paris. Sophisticated, stylish, intriguing,” Eve declared to Yantra one day as they sipped Pastis, and took in the world rushing past Eve’s favourite café, Les Deux Maggots. In Paris Eve felt there was a fascinating slice of life to be discovered on every street corner. All she wanted to do was walk, and walk, and walk . . . and watch les Parisiens. Everything about them fascinated her. How they dressed; how they walked; how they interacted with one another; the air of confidence and arrogance they exuded; the slight tinge of sadness she could spy lurking beneath their brusque façades; everything. Eve felt that if she could just discover what it was that inspired the confidence the Parisians possessed, she might be able to acquire a little of it for herself.
They visited all the major museums— Musée du Louvre, Musée D’Orsay, Musée Picasso, Musée Rodin—but Eve particularly delighted in seeking out the smaller, more boutique museums and galleries. Her favourite was the Musée de la Vie Romantique in Pigalle, where echoes of the romantic poets, writers, musicians, and painters lingered in the air. She also loved the atmosphere of Musée de Montmartre, with it connection to the colourful history of the surrounding neighbourhood, and Musée Carnavale, with its many portraits of Parisians, displaying in abundance their noble Gallic features, as well as the joie-de-vivre that Paris has inspired for so many centuries.
It was in these museums that Eve discovered the true heart of the romantic artistic life of Paris. She spent hours gazing into the eyes and faces of the portraits, connecting to them in a deep, mysterious way. Seeing self-portraits of some of the artists themselves was like looking into a mirror for Eve: sadness, insecurity, romantic longing, and tragedy gazing out at her from era’s past. There she was, Eve and her sad eyes, looking out of the face of a long dead painter, captured on canvas for posterity . . .
Eve’s shopping exploits were taken to a whole new level in Paris; it became her obsession. Having spent quite some time now observing how Italian and French women dressed, and how they so carefully put their outfits together, Eve had started to find she could select the perfect items of clothing and accessories that would add to, and enhance, the unique personal style that she was rapidly developing. Galeries Lafayette was Eve’s favourite destination to fulfill he steadily growing shopping addiction. Galeries Lafayette was also the location of the incident that would traumatize Eve more deeply than any other in her life to date, and which would change her life forever.
Paris in the autumn of 2014 was delightful: sunny, warm, optimistic. Everyone held their breath in anticipation of the onset of winter, unable to quite believe their luck as one perfect-weather day followed another. By mid-November the Galeries Lafayette flagship store—nestled behind the grandeur of the Palais Garnier of the Paris Opera—was exuberantly adorned in its Christmas finery. The energy of the location was exhilarating for shoppers and voyeurs alike, and navigating the crowded sidewalks was hazardous, to say the least.
Eve and Yantra arrived early for this particular day’s shopping outing, browsing their way through multiple levels of the store. By noon Eve’s purchases were weighing heavily on Yantra’s strong and capable arms, and Eve was carrying half a dozen bags herself. They stopped for obligatory chocolat chaud and patisseries at Café Angelina, and then set out to return to their apartment at around 1pm. As they made their way to the store’s exit on Chausée D’Antin Lafayette, Eve’s phone beeped. She pulled it deftly from her jeans pocket, and was delighted to find a message from Alex; it had been more than a week since their last communication. Included in his message was a picture of him being made to look a complete fool by his new fraternity brothers. Alex was dressed in some kind of horse or donkey costume, and everyone in the picture was clearly inebriated; jugs of beer and bottles of alcohol were strewn all around them. Eve couldn’t believe that her precious twin brother had turned into a drunken buffoon in only a matter of weeks.
As Eve pushed the door of the store open she was laughing loudly, and she turned to Yantra to show her the picture. Little did Eve know that the footpath outside this particular entrance of Galeries Lafayette was very narrow, and as she exited she bumped heavily into a man who was walking up the street from the nearby Metro station. Eve didn’t see him at all, and in her exuberance accidentally knocked him off the sidewalk and into the street . . . and directly into the path of an on-coming bus.
The driver of the bus, who was accelerating to get through the changing traffic light at the adjacent intersection, stamped on his brakes and a deafening squeal filled the narrow street. A woman screamed. Then another. A loud thump, a thud, then . . . quiet. Eve stared intently into Yantra’s horrified face and gaping brown eyes, scanning them for some indication of the outcome of what had just happened. Eve’s neck and body was seemingly frozen, and unable to turn to look directly at the scene in the street just in front of her.
Eve noticed that she was holding her breath, and that time seemed to have come to a standstill, then suddenly Yantra grabbed Eve roughly by the arm and started dragging her, weaving and squeezing their way through the gawking pedestrians on the crowded sidewalk, away from the gathering crowd. A wave of intense emotion arose in Eve as she stumbled along behind Yantra and she started crying, silently at first, then sobbing violently.
“No, Yantra. We have to go back and see if he’s OK,” Eve finally managed to say through the tears, attempting to halt Yantra’s forward momentum. But on this particular occasion Yantra was not prepared to listen to Eve’s directions. She knew what she intended to do, and she was going to do it. Moments later they arrived at a quieter intersection where Yantra waved down a passing taxi, and they sped away for the accident scene. Unaware of the fate of the man she had accidentally knocked into the street, Eve sat motionless, staring wide-eyed out the cab window at the blurry world passing by. Playing over and over on the screen of her inner vision was the scene she had glimpsed when she had glanced back as they fled the scene: a handsome middle-aged man with salt-and-pepper hair and goatee, his spectacles crushed and broken next to him on the road, his body twisted and unmoving, a pool of dark blood forming around his head . . .
Eve scoured the news sites, both local and international, in the days that followed but there was no mention of the incident. Was that a good sign? Maybe. Not knowing started to eat away at her, and Eve became irritable and grouchy. She couldn’t sleep, and wasn’t interested in doing anything except drinking coffee, gazing out the apartment window at the roof tops—the spires of Notre Dame visible in the middle distance—and feel increasingly sorry for herself.
Have I just been responsible for killing a man? A total stranger? Out of sheer selfishness and lack of awareness? What does that mean about who I am? Am I some kind of monster? Do I deserve to be arrested, locked up, punished? Should I go to the police and give myself up? Maybe I should just end my life right now and be done with all this pain and suffering.
Yantra tried her best to cheer Eve up, and distract her from her dark thoughts, but there was nothing she could say that was even remotely helpful. After a week of her mood becoming darker and gloomier, Yantra sat Eve down and took hold of both her hands in a firm but loving way. She looked directly into Eve’s red swollen eyes and said firmly that they had to call Ken and Faye, and tell them what had happened. Eve knew it was true, but she had retreated so far inside herself that she was literally unable to speak; Yantra made the call.
There was no question. Eve and Yantra were to fly home immediately. Faye arranged the flights, first class, for the following morning, and she met them at the terminal gate at JFK. Faye wrapped Eve up in her capable arms and didn’t let her go. A limousine whisked them to the privacy and safety of the Abercrombie’s Central Park West apartment. It was a great relief for Eve to be at home in familiar surroundings, but the dark cloud that had descended over her remained firmly in place.
Ken used his not inconsiderable diplomatic connections to make discrete inquiries about the incident in Paris, but he was unable to come up with any definitive news. Everyone—Ken, Faye, and Yantra—agreed that unless Eve was clearly implicated in causing significant harm to the man, then it was better to stay quiet about it. At this point, even if she had felt strong enough to stand up and confess to being the cause of the accident, Eve wouldn’t have been allowed to do so by her protective family. So as to avoid any possibility of accidentally disclosing details about what had occurred in Paris when out in public, they all agreed to refer to it simply as the incident . . .
For the next few months Eve spent most of her time in bed, sleeping, dozing, fretting, worrying, staring at the ceiling, and reliving the incident over and over. She had no appetite, and her weight dropped precipitously. Faye would come every day and hand feed her a few mouthfuls of soup, or give her a calorie rich drink, but Eve just couldn’t stomach any food. What little enjoyment Eve had previously gotten out of life had literally dried up and disappeared. Whereas before life had felt difficult, tiring, a challenge, now it felt painful, pointless, a burden. Eve could not think of a single thing that made her feel hopeful about the future, and there was nothing that she wanted to do as everything she attempted felt dead and meaningless.
Faye took Eve to see a psychiatrist who tried to get Eve to tell him why she was so depressed, but Eve had nothing to say to him. He gave her pills to take every day, but they made her feel dopey and drowsy. Eve only took a couple of them, then started to feign swallowing them when Faye brought them for her each morning, and stored them in the back of her sock drawer for safe keeping.
As the start of the 2015 college year—and her 18th birthday—approached, Eve started to formulate a plan. She was feeling trapped and she needed to get out of home, to get away from Faye and Ken, and away from Yantra. She also needed to find something to stimulate her mind and distract her in order to get away from the dark and depressive thoughts that had taken up residence there. Eve applied for, and was accepted into, a fine arts degree at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. While Trinity was not a very high-profile school for the daughter of the future President of the United States, Eve’s primary concern at that moment was not the university’s academic reputation as much as its geographic distance from both New Eden and Stanford. What had become clear to Eve was that she needed to be alone, anonymous, and not connected in any way to her family and everything that defined the person she had been for the previous 18 years. She needed a fresh start . . .
Eve’s move to San Antonio came just in time. Faye was worried that running away from her troubles was not going to help the deep-seated issues Eve was attempting to deal with, but for Eve, to completely reinvent herself, and leave her past behind, was exactly what was needed.
The Eve Abercrombie who introduced herself to her fellow students and alumni at Trinity bore little resemblance to the person Eve had been previously. She was chirpy and positive; she became involved in campus activities; she volunteered for roles on committees; and she became fully integrated into college life.
Am I running away from my past and not dealing with important issues? Certainly. Is running away more effective than moping around at home, and seeing that useless psychiatrist? Most definitely, Eve justified. Will the unattended issues come back to haunt me later? Maybe, but right now I just don’t want to think about them.
Within a few weeks Eve had made three new friends—Amelie, Jane, and Justin—and the four were spending most of their free time together. It felt good to be accepted in this new environment for simply being herself, instead of being different and on the outside, or the daughter of minor celebrities, as she had always been in the past; Eve allowed the candle of hope to be lit once more.
Only a matter of months into the school year Eve met a boy, Freddie, and they started dating. Because she wanted to fit in and be as normal as possible in her new life, Eve had taken a job working in the college alumni social club three evenings each week. The work was mundane and entailed distributing plates of food from the kitchen and drinks from the bar to the patrons, and collecting empty plates and glasses. The atmosphere of the club was pleasant, intellectual, and Eve enjoyed the hours she spent working there.
Freddie Finnergan—a sophomore studying at Trinity for a degree in medical science—was from Omaha, Nebraska, and he worked behind the bar of the social club. Freddie was tall and solid, with shoulder-length dark brown hair, and he had a tattoo of a snail on the inside of his left forearm. Freddie generally dressed sloppily, and he wore unfortunate glasses that made him look somewhat like an owl, but it was Freddie’s demeanour, which was sweet and pleasant to be around, that Eve was drawn to. One evening in her second week working at the social club Eve noticed Freddie’s gaze following her around the room. She felt uncomfortable being under this close scrutiny so she stopped by the bar and casually asked Freddie if there was something he wanted to say to her:
“Ah, ah, ah . . . no. I’m sorry Eve. I didn’t realize I was being so obvious. I guess I just like watching you. The way you move is so graceful.”
“Why that’s very sweet, Freddie. Thank you.” Eve felt a flutter in her belly, and she noticed she was blushing.
They began spending more and more of their free time together, and Eve found herself day-dreaming about Freddie when he wasn’t with her. One evening as they walked home from a movie together Freddie kissed her, and for the first time in her life Eve kissed someone back. Freddie was considerate of Eve’s desire to take things slowly, and he put no pressure on her to move into a sexual relationship the first year, but on the anniversary of their kiss they both agreed it was time.
Eve’s three years at Trinity seem to fly by and she was so happy having a gentle, kind boyfriend to share this time of her life with. She found herself fantasizing about marriage, picturing herself in a flowing white gown and veil, walking hand-in-hand down the steps of the palace . . . oops, church . . . with Freddie. Eve’s old, sad life in New Eden, and the incident, all seemed so long ago, and so far away.
As the spring of 2018 came around, with Freddie finishing his postgraduate year, and Eve coming to the end of her undergraduate degree at Trinity, a discussion about what was next for the couple became inevitable. At this point Freddie started to look uncomfortable. He squirmed in his seat, and looked away, as he told Eve that he was engaged to be married to his childhood sweetheart back in Omaha. The wedding was to take place in July. As he saw the shattered look on Eve’s face, Freddie went on to say: “I didn’t mean to become so involved with you Eve, it’s just that you are so nice. I’m sorry.”
“Sorry! Sorry! Is that it? Sorry! After three years of lies. Sorry! Wow, what a fool I’ve been. So stupid. But that’s OK Freddie Finnergan, I deserve it. Really I do. It’s all my fault. Have a wonderful life. Goodbye.”
Eve ran to her room and fell onto her bed, burying her face in her pillow and sobbing. All of her past demons instantly resurfaced as if they had been waiting just in the background all along, and a pall of darkness and gloom descended over Eve once more. In the early hours of the morning Eve made up her mind: it was time to be done with all this pain. She had had enough of life, and death was the most attractive option left available to her.
Eve went to her dresser and fished out the almost-full bottle of anti-depressant tablets from their safe hiding place behind her underwear. She stopped, staring at the bottle in her hand for some minutes, then stared into the mirror in front of her. All she saw in the mirror was ugliness. The voice in her head only had confirming words, convincing her what a hideous, ugly, unredeemable creature she was. Eve sighed heavily, wiped the tears from her eyes, and walked slowly into the bathroom, locking the door behind her . . .
It was about three hours later that Angie Drysdale—Eve’s roommate—upon attempting to go the bathroom, had realised there was a problem and raised the alarm. An ambulance arrived, followed by the police. The bathroom door was smashed open. Eve was unconscious . . . but she was alive.
Eve remained in a coma for three days, then slowly came around, and back to reality. The doctors were concerned about possible brain damage, but testing showed Eve to have been very lucky, and she seemed to have escaped without any demonstrable injuries.
Faye flew to San Antonio as soon as she heard of Eve’s suicide attempt, and two weeks later she accompanied Eve back to New Eden. Eve’s recovery was slow and painful, with Faye ensuring round-the-clock care and supervision for her. This time Eve’s daily mood-stabilising medication was given to her by a nurse who ensured it was swallowed before leaving the room. Whether or not the medication was effective Eve couldn’t say, but over the months she did find herself starting to be happy that she was still alive, though there was no part of her that regretted her attempt at ending her life. In some morbid masochistic way having this event as part of her life story acted as a confirmation to the world of how tragic her life really was.
Once more the Abercrombie family made a decision to keep the details of Eve’s suicide attempt secret, especially from the press. They all agreed to refer to it simply as the attempt. Ken and Faye’s concern about media attention by this time was at a very high level given that Ken was running for the Partisan Party nomination for the 2020 presidential election cycle . . .
And so we arrive at the present: July 2020. Eve has started taking singing and dancing classes again at Faye’s urging, and while she is still quite sure she has no talent of any sort, on some level she is enjoying involving herself in her old passion of musical theatre once more.
Yantra is now working as the manager of The Dark Side—the BDSM cabaret owned and run by Ken’s mistress, Lobida—and at Yantra’s suggestion Eve has started working as a hostess at the club. Eve is finding that the excitement and intensity of the venue is giving her more motivation to engage with life. In fact, Eve has agreed to perform at TDS tonight. She is nervous . . . but excited.
Ken Abercrombie has just been awarded the Partisan Party nomination for president, and despite the Partisan National Convention closing party still being underway at the Lincoln Centre, Ken has arrived at the club to see Eve’s performing debut. She can’t quite believe that he is actually there to see her . . .