Content Warning: Sexual and Domestic Violence
She fled the fishing town before cake.
In the kitchen drawer, smothered beneath a mass grave of paper-packaged chopsticks and overdue bills, a box of birthday candles sat unopened. Wicks unravished by flame. The townsfolk claimed it was the biggest scandal since wacky Bill Clark sold the cannery by the pier to some city-dweller back in ‘05. Of course, in the wicked ways of small-town chinwag, Little Evie Taylor took the brunt of the blame. They claimed the youth of today had skipped out on learning any whiff of family etiquette.
If Little Evie Taylor held any regard for her poor daddy, she’d have stayed to help the old man sell tack to the local fishermen. If Little Evie Taylor held any regard for her poor daddy, she wouldn’t have left him with nothing but cigarette-singed floors, scuffed up walls, and nail-polish-covered scratch marks on the bedposts. If Little Evie Taylor held any regard for her poor daddy, she’d have done what any good girl was supposed to have done⎯sat down, did what she was told, and shut the hell up.
‘Quit running off your mouth, Evie,’ her high school sweetheart would say to her when she slipped into tangents on tide levels or oil pipelines or the inflating price of chewing gum. ‘You’re giving me a fucking headache.’
‘Fine,’ she’d say, neither apologising nor arguing. ‘What do you want to talk about?’
‘We don’t have to talk.’
And then he’d have his way with her in the back of his dad’s pickup, and she would think about that little fishing town and how desperately she wanted to see it shrivel in a rear-view mirror.
Evie had grown accustomed to the mouths of men and boys. She had a reputation for getting around or, more accurately, passed around. She was a weak-strain joint coated in various lipstick shades and alcohol-infused saliva. She was a party favour. She was next morning shame.
Sometimes when her boyfriend disappeared at parties, she’d play her own version of Russian Roulette, wandering around to open random closed doors. As it were, she probably knew the most secrets of anyone at her school. But she never caught Caleb when he knew she was at a party too. Although Evie didn’t really care too much if she was cheated on; she’d kissed almost all of his friends out of spite. It was more about knowing, so that maybe she’d have an out.
The only time she had any victory was at an annual Amy Baker party⎯the editor of the school newspaper who sacrificed her three-story colonial in the name of popularity, while her parents vacationed in Cape Cod. Evie’s invitation came from a friend of a friend of a friend⎯even though she and Amy had been friends themselves once⎯and she hadn’t told Caleb she’d be there when he asked in the school car lot earlier.
But when she finally caught him, pants around his ankles, he grovelled so publicly that she forgave him just so he’d stop. He brought Evie a peace offering of bitter beer, and another, and another, and soon enough his hand was up her skirt beside Grammy Baker’s urn in the living room. The next day in algebra, he told his friends she was a manipulative slut he couldn’t get rid of, and Evie pretended not to hear and pretended not to care.
Approaching her senior year, Little Evie Taylor refused to answer to anything but her full given name, Evelyn⎯the only thing she’d ever gotten from her mother besides a family history with mental illness. The town humoured her for a week before it was back to Little Evie Taylor.
‘Just old habits is what it is,’ her neighbour Joe explained to her one salty afternoon in late summer.
Evie was sunbathing on the docks, flicking through the year-old Cosmopolitan she’d swiped from Doc Mallory’s waiting room. Heat radiated off the damp wood of the jetty, but the low sun was blocked by Joe’s long shadow looming over her body. Evie made a point of turning away from him, tugging her towel back into the sun, but old Joe was content where he was.
‘Most folks around here watched you runnin’ amuck in diapers, chasing them pesky gulls off the wharf,’ he said between Marlboro puffs, lingering as he waited for his boy to load the tinny with the tackleboxes. ‘Sorry, sweetheart, but you’ll always be Little Evie Taylor to us.’
His eyes swept over her school-issued swimsuit, and when his son finished with the gear, he leered too. Evie could imagine them at the dinner table later that night, phones in a basket, calling it quality father-son bonding.
‘Because Evelyn is a woman’s name, and I’m just a girl, right?’ she asked, only to taste the irony on her tongue, and to hear it on his.
‘Right,’ he said.
And that was possibly the first time she truly understood. They wanted Evelyn’s new curves, but Evie’s youth, Evie’s obedience, Evie’s submission. They wanted Evelyn’s mouth, but Evie’s silence, Evie’s innocence, Evie’s vulnerability. And it seemed the more she understood, the less she understood, because perhaps they hadn’t wanted Evelyn at all. Perhaps it was Evie’s body they craved, Evie’s mouth they wanted on theirs, and that was so much worse. So suddenly had she switched from understanding too little, to understanding too much. And just as suddenly the revulsion set in. The anger.
The news broke the morning after, on her seventeenth birthday. Missing cash, missing pickup, missing girl. Caleb always hated when she’d hijack his console, only to abide by the road rules on Grand Theft Auto. The night she disappeared, he hovered nearby as his father recited the license plate to the police. Forty-four miles away, security cameras churned out grainy footage of the depot, a lone traveller grinning as she boarded her bus.
Author: Willow Ward is an author of fiction, screenplays, poetry, and memoir. She is due to graduate from a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts (Creative Writing) from QUT in 2022. She is the Secretary for QUT’s Literary Salon and a member of the Editorial Board for ScratchThat Magazine. Her works often explore femininity, sexuality, and identity, taking major inspiration from the two Taylors: Taylor Jenkins Reid and Taylor Swift.
Artist: SaBelle Pobjoy-Sherriff is a third year fine arts visual arts student. Her art practice uses narrative and mythology to create obscure illustrations and sculptures. Using acrylic paint and coloured pencils she creates vibrant worlds and creatures. Her current work focuses on the current climate crisis and the idea of corrupting escapism. You can find more on her Instagram @SaBelleeee.
Editors: Jasmine Tait and Eliana Fritz