Eve is Straight Up Not Having A Good Time™ right now. Rocketing around the kitchen with three shots of espresso in her veins and the knot of her stained No Bitchin In My Kitchen apron hanging on for dear life, Eve feels simultaneously the most alive she’s ever been and like she has one foot in a coffin. That’s why when she turns around to see a plate of appetisers she body-checked in her frenzy teeter near the edge of the counter, she lets it fall.
All at once, the plate, the meticulously arranged caprese, and Eve hit the floor, leaving crumbled mozzarella and a shattered heart in its wake. Balsamic reduction joins the other red stains on her white ceramic floor.
For a moment, it’s silent, and then Eve groans in defeat, slamming her skull into her kneecaps. She really wanted Mari’s day off to be perfect, something to look back on fondly when she and Mari were fighting again.
Eve allows herself exactly five seconds to wallow in self-pity before springing up again, slapping her cheeks and forcing out a breath, purging any bad thoughts from her body. Something aromatic smells from the oven—something special that she’s spent hours preparing for and has only one chance to get right. Armed with oven mitts and a thermometer, she opens the oven door. Mari’s waiting for her just outside the kitchen door; this has to be perfect.
Calli hears Eve bustling about in the kitchen, unreactive even when there’s a shatter. Sometimes, it gets like this, when she feels like she’s underwater—the air is thick, sound is garbled, and she is no one. She knocks her knees together to kickstart her brain, wincing when her broken ankles brush against the chair legs they’re tied to. Through her sloppily glued eyelashes and cakey mascara, she peers at the table in front of her.
Silken tablecloth, an expensive centrepiece, a banner overhead reading “MARI’S OFF DA DAY OFF <3” in glitter paint. Calli’s lip curls. Technically, Mari’s last day off was ages ago, but to Eve, it’s been the same day for about a week now. The banner slides off on one side, almost mockingly.
It’s ironic, Calli thinks, that her sister is somehow still more loved dead than Calli is alive. It’s evidenced by the way Mari’s memorial service had dozens of strangers buying flowers or shedding tears, all touched by a girl who ‘went too soon’. There wasn’t even a body, and Mari hasn’t seen some of these people in years! But somehow the church was full and Calli was empty. Even now, she’s—
Eve interrupts her thoughts by busting open the door with her hips, bunny slippers scuffling across the floor, arms full with plates of deconstructed caprese.
“Mari! Sorry I took so long,” she grins, sharp. “You know how hopeless I am in the kitchen.”
Calli doesn’t. She’s never known Eve past the photos on Mari’s Instagram, but all that comes out is a lukewarm “Looks great!” and a smile on a face unfamiliar with it.
Calli tries not to flinch when Eve tucks a strand of her bangs behind her ear. Her scalp still burns from when Eve tried to bleach it, scrubbing and blistering to try to dye that same bright purple that Mari wore. Eventually, Eve gave up, glueing a wig on her still-raw scalp. Calli sits there—akin to the rickety table between them, scars and blemishes covered by a silken sheet, smeared in makeup to compensate for the fact that she’s not good enough to be her sister.
The sound of clinking silverware is awkward when it’s not accompanied by anything, so Eve tries to fill in the gaps with incessant chatter, all she’s ever really good for. Can you believe what happened today? or Have you seen the latest episode of Euphoria or Please say anything so I know you’re still breathing and aren’t mad at me. Maybe not that last one, but nothing changes the stone-faced expression on her girlfriend. Seconds pass and Eve gets more and more manic. Maybe Mari’s just tired—work has been difficult and she already comes home stressed and pissy and tired. Maybe she needs time to eat, but she’s not touching anything and Eve thinks that maybe she just pretends to like her cooking so she stops pestering. Maybe Mari hates their life right now and hates how stagnant they are and hates how Eve’s okay with it and Eve starts talking because it’s all she knows and it turns to yelling because Eve hates change maybe more than she loves Mari and she looks over the gear shift to see Mari staring wide-eyed as Eve swerves to avoid a pole and—
Eve snaps out of her stupor, wondering where she got that last thought from, because Mari is right there in front of her, no doubt awaiting the main dish.
“Sit tight, baby. I’ve got a surprise for you…”
Eve’s feet tip-tap out of view and Calli stifles the urge to tug her back. It’s sickening that she yearns for this familiarity. Grief isn’t a linear process and they keep going backwards, her and Eve. The same dinner, the same table, the same conversations. The same way Eve works from home and gets groceries delivered because she can’t stand the thought of being behind the wheel again; the same way she gets this haunted look in her eyes when there’s too much Calli in her Mari; the same way Eve pares away bits of her like an apple and Calli lets herself get cored and patched together again because she understands. She feels Mari’s presence like a phantom limb—breathing down her neck and clawing at her chest, reminding her of her shortcomings. She supposes that the only difference between her and Eve is that in this house submerged in water and drenched in the essence of a dead girl, Calli would rather drown while Eve would drag her down in order to get herself a gulp of air. Acid rises in Calli’s throat and Mari rises from her empty grave.
Oh, Eve’s back, waving a hand frantically to get Calli’s attention. She’ll be Mari until she dies, so in a sense, ‘Calli’ doesn’t exist. Or maybe it’s Mari that doesn’t. She doesn’t know anymore. She doesn’t think it matters.
“Sorry, I zoned out.” What would Mari say? What would she do? Calli starts to fidget nervously before freezing because would Mari have done that?
“I was gonna ask what you thought of the steak,” Eve pouted, gesturing to the meat dish she doesn’t remember being put in front of her. Calli reaches for the knife set in front of her and when did they get knives this sharp? Blood seeps out as Calli cuts it open—a perfect rare.
Eve waits excitedly, tapping her fingers and bouncing in her seat. Mari can’t seem to eat fast enough. But Eve understands. This time especially, the meal deserves to be savoured.
Cooking is an act of love, of worship. Every measured grain of seasoning, every brush of a carving knife over skin, and every contact between lips and flesh is intimate, reverent, and vulnerable. The food bares itself to you and you’re obligated to bare yourself in turn. This is how Eve loves, unabashed and all-consuming. Maybe Mari was is afraid of it—Eve’s inferno, a swirl of cutting fire that Mari strayed too close to, too deep in the flames when she realised she was being burned alive.
Mari’s incisors cut through flesh, blood dripping in rivulets down her chin, and Eve feels a sense of euphoria like no other. Her beautiful infinite Ouroboros, consuming and rebirthing herself in a twisted cycle. For that picture perfect moment, she is Mari and they are one.
“Isn’t this nice?” Eve sighs, reaching over to catch falling blood on her fingers, licking it indulgently. She catches the next bite of steak directly from Mari’s fork, letting it melt in her mouth. “We’ll be together forever~”
“Hey, Eve,” Calli asks, her mouth filling with blood or maybe bile. “What kind of meat is this?”
And Eve gives her an indescribable look, eyes still dilated with elation. At that moment, it hits Calli like a tidal wave, sweeping her off her mangled feet. How Eve got a wig so accurate, why Mari’s body was never found even though she died in a car crash, the knives and bloodstains she sees in the corners of her vision. Her mouth falls open in a scream but her vocal chords are too preoccupied competing with her gag reflex to let out a sound.
Eve caresses her cheek, coaxing another piece of—of Mari through Calli’s frozen mouth, covering her airways so she’d be forced to swallow.
“Do you feel my love?” and Calli finally understands the true extent of Eve’s feelings, what Mari escaped from. She’ll die by it, cremated by the blaze or slow-cooked on the smouldering embers.
Photo: RitaE on Pixabay.com