“I never hurt nobody but myself, and that's nobody's business but my own.”
— Billy Holliday (1915–1959)
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 emergency caesarean section incision as he was lying anteriorly when the decision to proceed urgently with the surgery was made. Eve, in a separate—and, surprisingly, unruptured—amniotic sac of her own, followed a minute later.
The sense of separation that Eve had felt as she developed in the womb, of being close to but distinctly separated from her brother, continued throughout her life. To Eve, other people and the outside world always felt a little distant and just slightly out of reach. Eve always felt that she just didn’t belong.
Eve was frequently told through her early years that she’d been born with a silver spoon in her mouth. Not surprising, really, 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, far from it. From my perspective, all I see around me are people who are more attractive, more talented, happier, and getting more love and recognition than I do. I really wish that people could see how hard it is to be me sometimes.”
In fact, Eve 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 go so far as to argue that it made her life more miserable. In truth, Eve would have been unhappy wherever she grew up—in poverty or in abundance—as it was simply part of her inherent nature to be melancholy. If she’d lived in the time of Hippocrates and Galen, Eve would have been diagnosed with an overabundance of the humor, melaina chole—black bile.
Eve’s brother, Alex, on the other hand, was upbeat, positive, full of drive and ambition, and constantly achieving whatever he put his mind to. Eve found getting motivated to do anything challenging at the best of times, and self-doubt was a debilitating companion she carried with her through life. Alex was enthusiastic, popular, and successful, all which Eve found to be exceedingly irritating.
Alex and Eve were IVF babies, a test-tube ultimately being the required receptacle for Ken Abercrombie’s sperm to have an encounter with one of his wife’s eggs given the complete absence of carnal relations in the Abercrombie marital bed by this time. 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’d died at around ten weeks gestation. Growing up Eve would sometimes feel a vague presence, like someone standing quietly in shadow when no one was there. During a hypnotherapeutic regression session later in her life, Eve reconnected with the consciousness of her long-lost sister, and the ghostly presence that’d haunted her finally made sense. From then on Eve would feel sad every time she thought about her dead sister, especially as no one—except perhaps her mother, although Faye would never openly admit to it—even believed she’d ever existed.
Despite being fraternal twins, clearly, Alex and Eve maintained remarkably similar physical appearances throughout their early years. As babies Faye would often have to look twice—and sometimes even check which genitals resided inside which diaper—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 slightly longer hair and small budding breasts that clearly differentiated them.
The twins were similar in many ways, mostly physical, but they were complete 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 charming and up-beat, while Eve was morose and moody; Alex was a high-achiever, while Eve could never quite finish anything.
Eve loved her twin brother unquestioningly, but he also infuriated her. The thing she found most annoying about Alex was his capacity to be incredibly superficial. “I can’t believe you’re my twin sometimes, Alex. How is it that you can be so uninterested in anything deep or important, and so obsessed with yourself?” Without Alex, however, Eve knew for sure that she wouldn’t be alive; Alex saved Eve’s life—literally and metaphorically—many times over the years.
When they were still small, around three or four, the twins would sometimes dress in each other's clothes and pretend to be the other for a few hours. They learned a lot about who they were through the innocence of this childhood game. Eve realized how difficult and unnatural it was for her to act positive and outgoing, and how allowing that much energy and aliveness in her body felt so foreign and uncomfortable. Alex learned how people tended to ignore or feel sorry for Eve because she was sad all the time, and how they tended not to engage with her because of her moodiness and negativity.
Eve wasn’t sure where her melancholic mood had come 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 Eve could always still feel the sadness lurking just beneath the surface. It occurred to Eve one day that when she’d been made an important piece, the happy piece, had been left out. Maybe it’s there, Eve thought, but it’s defective, or it’s 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—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. This realization fully landed for Eve when she was about to turn fifteen, and it resulted in the development of an all-pervading sense of gloom for being unseen by the whole world. This made Eve feel even more like she didn’t belong anywhere, and that she didn’t matter. It also brought up deep existential questions for her: Why is everyone, including myself, so self-centered, she thought? 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 Eve see a psychologist to talk things over. Eve declined the offer.
Silver spoon or no, most of the twins' peers growing up were jealous of Alex and Eve Abercrombie and their privileged lifestyle. Eve secretly loved living in their big penthouse apartment right in the middle of New Eden City. From her bedroom window Eve could look out over Central Park—her favorite place in the whole world—and the bustling, throbbing city that surrounded it. When the twins were small, Yantra would take them into the park every day of the year no matter the weather: 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 could vividly recall the routine of bundling up in her winter coat, fur hat with earflaps, scarf, gloves, and rain-boots, her body buzzing in anticipation. Once in the park Eve would run screaming with excitement from snowdrift to snowdrift, and intermittently flop onto her back to make snow angels.
On these perfect mornings Eve would be filled with pure joy and wonder, and for a brief time her sadness was nowhere to be found. But the dusting of fresh snow that’d 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 of New Eden.
Eve liked the concept of going to school because she really loved to learn things, but she didn’t 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 bullied very often, mostly because she kept herself well off the nerd radar that the tougher kids seemed to possess. Occasionally, however, Eve would slip out into full 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 really was. It was there, under the direct scrutiny of her jealous peers, that it became apparent just how different—and from their perspective, how obnoxious—Eve was. She would then become the target of taunting and humiliation for a period. 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 class leaders to avoid this type of attention.
Dalton was a school that had a well-rounded curriculum, including classes in all the dramatic arts: music, singing, dance, drama. Eve tried all of these in her early years and fell in love with each of them in turn. It slowly became clear to Eve that she had a passion: musical theatre. The only problem for Eve was that she didn’t believe she had any talent. Mostly Eve 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 ensure that no one ever heard or saw her when doing so.
The year Eve turned ten was the year she was introduced to Broadway. This momentous unveiling shifted Eve’s whole perception of the world, and for a while her life started to make sense. Here was an art form that expressed who she was—sad, different, misunderstood, a misfit—yet somehow 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, Faye, and Alex—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 favorite musicals 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. Not all the Broadway musicals Eve saw contained this childish fairytale narrative, of course, or were they 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, and 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. Eve started taking private singing, dancing, and acting classes—one benefit of having wealthy parents, she had to admit—and her skills improved significantly, 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’d made her debut.
Under Faye’s attentive care, Alex and Eve wanted for nothing. Most of the practical and physical aspects of the twins’ upbringing, however, were performed by Yantra; it was always Yantra who got up at 4am to give them a feed or a reassuring cuddle. The area where Faye excelled, however, was in making sure that the twins had everything they needed to succeed in life: a comfortable and safe home environment; abundant healthy, nutritious food; well-made, comfortable, 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 affection with her children, but the practical side of things was most definitely her forte.
Eve’s relationship with Faye when she was young was positive despite her pervasive negativity about almost everything else in her life. Eve would say that her mother was the kindest, most generous person she knew, and it was the truth. As Eve grew older, however, she started to become aware of a deeper, less altruistic, motivation in Faye’s generous actions, and more and more Eve started to interpret the way Faye acted with other people to be fake. Eve felt that her mother tried too hard to make people like her. Being overly positive and optimistic just to make other people feel better about themselves felt insincere to Eve, and when Faye was acting this way, it could turn Eve’s mood negative very quickly. As Eve’s teenage years progressed, her intolerance to Faye’s sycophantic behavior increased. Luckily, by this time Faye was spending more of her time supporting her increasingly famous husband, and the twins didn’t get as much of their mother’s personal attention as they had when they were younger.
Eve’s relationship with her father was much less well developed. Ken Abercrombie simply wasn’t around that much when the twins were little. Eve had vague memories from early childhood of a tall, shadowy figure—smelling of cigarettes, alcohol, and unfamiliar perfume—sneaking into the twins’ room late at night, well after they’d gone to bed. Ken would give both Alex and Eve a gentle good night kiss on their foreheads. Sometimes he would then 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 that he was there. She loved it when her father sat looking at her in the dark; her heart would swell, and throb pleasantly. Sometimes it felt so good, Eve thought her heart might 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 telephone or distracted by some work issue or another; it was 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 were often away from home then too. In the late '00s 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 jewels on a necklace of otherwise dull and uninteresting stones. At 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 life started to make sense to her—were the happiest and most memorable moments of her early life.
Faye insisted that the Abercrombie family take one holiday together every year. Eve never really understood 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, and he’d then proceed to lock himself in his room alone until the evening. It felt to Eve like she saw even less of her father on these vacations than she did when they were at home in New Eden. Still, despite his frequent absence and his erratic 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 that she finished high school, Eve didn’t feel that going straight on to college was right for her, so she asked Ken and Faye if she could take a gap year 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 successful as quickly and efficiently as possible, 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 required.
Having given up on her early life 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 somehow. Eve didn’t have any talent as an artist herself, but there was a way that beautiful art made her feel inspired and uplifted. Eve agreed with Faye that it could well be an appropriate field on which to put the focus of her future work 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 country they visited was Italy. Roma, Firenza, Milano, Venezia; Eve loved them all. Everything about the Italian culture seemed so much more refined than the crassness of New Eden and America, and Eve found it fascinating to dive into this new cultural experience.
It was in Italy that it first became apparent to both Eve and Yantra that European men looked at Eve in a certain way. Initially Eve wasn’t happy to be receiving so much attention from these men, and she felt uneasy about it, but when the positive attention continued unabated, she started to feel good about herself for the first time in years. It was like the Italian men were seeing the inherent beauty in Eve, and not the ugliness that Eve herself focused on. At first Yantra would have to point out the men’s interest to Eve because she didn’t notice it herself. Yantra also pointed out that the men were indicating that they wanted to get to know Eve more intimately. At only seventeen 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 in her that she hadn’t experienced before, and that felt good in an unfamiliar yet highly pleasurable way.
What arose for Eve from these encounters in Italy was the kernel of an idea. “If the right man is able to see me for who I truly am, if he’s able to see through my ugliness to the goodness that lies hidden deep inside of me, and if he’s attracted to me enough to want to get to know me that deeply, then perhaps that man could love me enough to enable me to truly love myself too.” The way this idea formulated in Eve’s mind was convoluted, but when she really allowed herself to open to it, it felt exhilarating.
It was while Eve and Yantra were in Italy that Eve discovered a new life passion: shopping. She had always paid attention to her appearance, but up to this point in her life shopping had only been a casual interest for Eve. Now, however, a full-blown obsession descended. Shoes, dresses, coats, hats, scarves, sunglasses, jewelry; the Italian style suited Eve in a way that fashion in America never had. Their luggage quickly grew, and Eve started leaving bags of her old clothes with homeless women she saw on the street. In retrospect, Eve was shedding her New Eden 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 peek its head out to greet the world. Hope started to surface in Eve, and one day she even caught herself smiling for no reason what-so-ever.
From Venice their itinerary took them by train through the Alps to Zurich. Eve found Switzerland to be geographically beautiful, but the people seemed cold and aloof to her. 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 cafés and bookstores, broad angled avenues, and narrow rambling alleys.
“Ah Paris, je t’aime. If I were 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 favorite café, Les Deux Maggots. In Paris, Eve found there was a fascinating slice of life to be discovered on every street corner and in every restaurant and bar. All she wanted to do was walk and observe les Parisiens. Everything about them fascinated her: how they dressed, how they walked, how they interacted with one another, the air of confidence—bordering on arrogance—they exuded, the slight tinge of sadness she could intuit 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—all of which she loved, but Eve particularly delighted in seeking out the smaller, more boutique museums and galleries. Her favorite 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 its connection to the colorful history of the surrounding neighborhood, and Musée Carnavale with its many portraits of Parisians, displaying in abundance their noble Gallic features as well as the joie de vivre that the city of 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 in the portraits, connecting with them in a deeply emotional way. Seeing self-portraits of some of the artists was like looking into a mirror for Eve: sadness, self-doubt, romantic longing, and tragedy gazing out at her from eras past. There she was, Eve and her sad eyes, looking out of the faces of long-dead painters.
Eve’s shopping exploits were taken to a whole new level in Paris. 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 favorite destination to fulfil her 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 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 good 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 their 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 herself carrying half a dozen bags. They stopped for the obligatory chocolat chaud et 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’d been more than two weeks since their last communication, and she was missing having his optimistic energy in her life. Included with the short message was a picture of Alex being made to look a complete fool by his new fraternity brothers at Stanford. He was dressed in a donkey costume, and everyone in the picture was clearly inebriated or already passed out; jugs of beer and bottles of alcohol were strewn all around them. Eve couldn’t quite believe that her high-achieving twin brother had turned into a drunken buffoon in only a matter of months.
As she pushed the door of the store open Eve was laughing loudly, and she turned to Yantra to show her Alex’s picture. Eve had no idea that the footpath outside this entrance of Galeries Lafayette was narrow. As she exited, the door she pushed open bumped heavily into a man who was hurrying up the street from the nearby Metro station. Eve didn’t see the man at all, but in her exuberance, she knocked him off balance. He staggered off the sidewalk, fell into the nearby 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. There was a thud, a thump, a crack, then . . . quiet.
Eve stared intently into Yantra’s horrified face, scanning it for some indication of the outcome of what had just transpired. Eve herself was frozen, and unable to turn and look at the scene in the street just to her right.
Finally, Eve noticed that she was holding her breath, and that strangely time seemed to have come to a standstill. In fact, all the pedestrians and traffic around her were unmoving, and everything was eerily silent. She slowly turned her head to look at the traumatic street tableau. There she saw a handsome middle-aged gentleman, with salt-and-pepper hair and a goatee beard, lying on the road in front of the bus. His shattered spectacles lay next to him. His body was twisted and unmoving, and there was a glistening vermillion-red halo around his head. Eve gasped in horror.
Suddenly, the frantic activity and noise around Eve returned to its former level. At this exact moment, Yantra roughly grabbed Eve by the arm and started dragging her, weaving and side-stepping, through the gathering throng of pedestrians and voyeurs on the crowded sidewalk. A wave of intense emotion arose in Eve as she stumbled along behind Yantra and she started to cry, silently at first, then openly sobbing.
“No, Yantra. We must go back and see if he’s OK,” Eve finally managed to say through her tears, attempting to halt Yantra’s forward momentum. But on this occasion Yantra was not prepared to listen to Eve’s direction. She knew what she intended to do, and she was going to do it, no matter what.
A minute 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’d knocked into the path of an oncoming bus, Eve sat motionless, staring unblinking out the cab window at the blurry world passing by. Playing over and over on the screen of her inner vision was the image of the man’s twisted, unmoving body, blood oozing from his head, his life force clearly draining away with it.
Eve and Yantra both scoured the news sites in the days that followed, but there was no mention of the incident. Was that a good sign? Maybe, but not knowing started to eat away at Eve, and she became increasingly irritable. She couldn’t sleep, and became uninterested in doing anything except drinking coffee, gazing out the apartment window at the jumbled Paris roof tops, and feeling 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 say about who I am? I must be a 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 save everyone the trouble?”
Yantra tried her best to cheer Eve up, and distract her from her increasingly 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 grip. She looked directly into Eve’s red, swollen eyes, and told her that they had to call her parents and tell them what’d happened. Eve knew it was true, but she’d retreated so far inside herself that she was literally unable to communicate; 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 strong and capable arms and didn’t let her go until they were safely home in the privacy of the Abercrombie’s penthouse. It was a great relief for Eve to be at home in familiar surroundings, but the dark cloud that’d descended on her in Paris 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, Yantra, Alex—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.
For the next few months Eve spent most of her time in bed sleeping, fretting, dozing, worrying, staring at the ceiling, and reliving the incident over and over in her mind. She had no appetite, and her weight dropped precipitously. Faye would come to her 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 literally dried up and disappeared. Whereas before the incident life had felt difficult, tiring, a challenge; now life felt painful, pointless, a burden. Eve couldn’t think of a single thing that made her feel hopeful about the future, and she didn’t want to do anything because everything she attempted felt dead and meaningless.
Faye took Eve to see a psychiatrist who tried to get Eve to tell her why she was so depressed, but Eve had nothing to say to her. The doctor gave Eve pills to take every day, but they made her feel even dopier and drowsier. Eve only took a couple of the pills before she started to feign swallowing them when Faye brought them to her each morning, and then stored them in a sock in the back of her underwear drawer for safe keeping.
As the start of the 2015 college year—and her eighteenth birthday—approached, Eve started to formulate a plan. She was feeling trapped, and she needed a change of scenery. She needed to get away from her overly protective parents, to get away from Yantra, and to get away from everything that represented her life to this point. She also needed to find something to stimulate her mind and distract her attention 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 particularly high-profile college for the daughter of the future President of the United States of America, 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’d been for the previous eighteen years. She needed a fresh start.
Eve’s decision to move to San Antonio was the right one. Faye was worried that running away from her troubles was not going to help the deep-seated depression and anxiety Eve was carrying, 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 clubs and activities; she volunteered for roles on committees; and she quickly became fully integrated into college life.
Am I running away from my past and not dealing with my problems? thought Eve. Probably. Is running away more effective than moping around at home and seeing that useless psychiatrist? Most definitely, Eve justified. Will my misery come back to haunt me later? Maybe, but right now I just don’t want to think about it all.
Within a few weeks Eve had made two new friends, Amelia and Justin, and the three spent 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’d always been up to this point in her life.
Only a matter of months into the school year Eve met a boy, Freddie Finnergan. Because she wanted to fit in and be as normal as possible in her new life at Trinity, 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 later collecting the empty plates and glasses. The atmosphere of the club was intellectual, pleasant, and Eve enjoyed the hours she spent working there.
Freddie—a sophomore studying medical science at Trinity—was from Omaha, Nebraska, and he worked behind the bar of the social club. Freddie was tall and solidly built with shoulder-length dark brown hair and a tattoo of Bugs Bunny on his left forearm. Freddie was also a sloppy dresser, and he wore round glasses that made him look a lot like an owl, but it was Freddie’s demeanor—which was sweet, attentive, and pleasant to be around—that Eve was most drawn to. One evening in her second week working at the social club Eve noticed Freddie’s gaze following her around the room. Feeling uncomfortable being under this sort of scrutiny, Eve 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.
Slowly Eve and Freddie began spending more and more of their free time together, and Eve even found herself daydreaming about Freddie when he wasn’t with her. One evening as they walked home from work at the social club together Freddie kissed Eve, 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 first kiss they both agreed it was time.
Eve’s three years at Trinity flew 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 together down the steps of the palace . . . oops, down the steps of the church . . . with Freddie. Eve’s old, sad life in New Eden—not to mention the traumatizing incident in Paris—now all seemed so long ago, and so far away. Eve even admitted to herself, finally, that she was happy.
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. It was at this point that 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 August. 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’re so nice. I’m sorry.”
“Sorry!! Sorry!! Is that it? Sorry!! After three years of lies. Sorry!! Wow, what a complete fool I’ve been. How stupid am I? Really!! But that’s OK, Freddie Finnergan, I deserve it. Really, I do. It’s all my fault. Have a wonderful life you . . . you spineless bastard!!”
Eve ran to her room, threw herself onto her bed burying her face in the pillow, and sobbed uncontrollably. All her past demons instantly resurfaced as if they’d been waiting in the wings all along, and a heavy pall of gloom descended onto Eve once more. In the early hours of the following morning Eve made up her mind: it was time to be done with all the pain. She’d had enough of life, and death was the most attractive option left available to her.
Eve went quietly to her dresser and fished out the almost full bottle of antidepressant tablets from their safe hiding place behind her underwear. She stood motionless staring at the bottle in her hand for some minutes, then looked at her reflection in the mirror of the dresser in front of her. All she saw was ugliness. The voice in her head only had confirming words to say, convincing Eve that she was a hideous, rotten, and an irredeemable cretin. Eve sighed heavily, wiped the tears roughly from her eyes, and walked slowly to the bathroom, locking the door behind her.
It was about three hours later that Eve’s roommate, Amelia, had attempted to open the bathroom door, realized there was a problem, and raised the alarm. The police arrived, accompanied by an ambulance crew, and 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 permanent brain damage, but testing showed Eve appeared to have escaped without any demonstrable brain injury.
Faye flew to San Antonio as soon as she heard of Eve’s suicide attempt, and a week 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 Eve. This time Eve’s daily mood-stabilizing medication was given to her by a nurse who ensured the capsule was swallowed before leaving Eve’s room. Whether or not the medication was effective Eve couldn’t say, but over the ensuing months she did find herself glad to still be alive, though there was no part of her that regretted the attempt to end her life. In some morbid, masochistic way, having a suicide attempt as part of her life story acted as a confirmation to the world of how tragic and painful Eve’s life really was.
Once more the Abercrombie family made the decision to keep the details of Eve’s suicide attempt firmly a secret, especially from the press; Ken and Faye’s concern about negative media attention by this time was at a very high level given that Ken would be running for the Partisan Party nomination for the 2020 presidential election cycle in a little over a year.
And so, Eve’s story now intersects with all the others on the important day in question: July 4th, 2020.
Eve has taken up voice and dance classes again at Yantra’s urging, and while she’s still quite sure she has no talent to speak of, on some level Eve is enjoying involving herself in her childhood passions once more.
The other activity Eve has secretly taken up following her suicide attempt is self-harm. When Eve’s mood is particularly low, she places a spiked leather tourniquet on her upper thigh and twists it until the pain makes her wince and swoon. She’s discovered that with this practice, something happens in her brain and body that—temporarily, at least—makes her feel less miserable. One result of her new habit is that Eve frequently has extensive bruising on her thighs, but she’s very careful not to let anyone see any evidence of her new addiction.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused Eve to become temporarily gloomier and even more pessimistic about life, but apart from this worsening of her mood the pandemic hasn’t impacting Eve’s life significantly.
Yantra has been the manager of The Dark Side—the BDSM cabaret owned and run by Ken’s mistress, Lobida—since it opened back in 2009. In late 2019, Yantra suggested that Eve start working at the club as a hostess, and Eve has found the excitement and intensity of the energy at the venue has given her more motivation to engage with life again. In fact, Eve has agreed to perform at TDS. Tonight is the club’s first open night for more than three months due to the lockdown imposed as COVID had rampaged through New Eden, so tonight is to be Eve’s public performing debut. She’s nervous, but also excited.
Eve’s father, Ken Abercrombie, has just been awarded the Partisan Party nomination for the US presidential elections in November, and despite the Partisan National Convention closing party still being underway at the Lincoln Center, Ken has arrived at TDS to see Eve perform. She can’t quite believe that her famous father is actually here in person to see her . . .