Eventually, Evey relented.
Her three coworkers, Fredrick, Rosanne, and David (but mostly Fredrick), cornered her in the shop early that morning and pestered her until she gave in and agreed to go celebrate the fifth. Her quiet evening alone, her and the Count of Monte Cristo, had been ruined. Strangely enough, Evey was almost glad. Her three coworkers had become friends – the only friends she'd had in a long while.
When she was with them the world tended to brighten up just that little bit that made it less unbearable.
Tonight was going to be unbearable, and Evey only hoped that they could work their magic and make her forget. Or at least ease the pain.
They were picking her up at eight sharp, where they would then whisk her off to their favourite pub. It was a place she'd never been to because she didn't get out as much as she should have. It was open all night, and was offering free seconds.
Presently, Evey sat in her bedroom in front of her mirror, brushing her hair and pondering the similarities of that exact time, now and a year before. She no longer looked like the same person, however. She could see it quite clearly in her face. She looked tired and pale. Thinner. Her eyes seemed darker – sombre. Her hair was darker, now that she let it grow out naturally. Yet, despite this, she found herself looking more mature. She was a woman who had experienced things over the course of a year that most people would have never seen in a lifetime.
It was because of V.
Evey was half convinced that she had dreamed up the night before. And at the same time, she was half convinced she hadn't. So two sides of herself were warring constantly with each other over rationality and reality. What would it be, then?
Evey picked up her lipstick and ran it over her bottom lip with care.
She hadn't quite decided. She supposed she might just be crazy, but she'd heard somewhere that crazy people deny the fact that they're…well, crazy. She was quite aware of that possibility, but it sounded so crude.
Part of her still believed, though. She believed he had been there, in her home, and she supposed that at the moment believing was all that mattered. She was just one more person of the millions in England that still believed V was alive. But then again, they didn't know any better.
A loud honking from outside broke through Evey's thoughts, and she checked her reflection on more time in the mirror before getting up and glancing through the window at the street below.
It was a cab, with the three of her friends hanging out various doors waving and shouting. She couldn't properly hear them, but the honking of the cab's horn told her enough. With deliberate care, she raised her middle finger and smirked at their outraged expressions. Then, she vacated her bedroom and flicked off the lights as she went. Grabbing up her overcoat, she pulled it over her black dress, buttoned it up, and knotted the tie around her waist before exiting her flat. She locked the door, dropped the keys into her purse and then attempted to job to the lift. It was awkward in heels, but she figured her friends might appreciate her hurrying.
"So then, she goes and slaps me right in the face! The nerve, eh?" Fred's outraged voice nearly eclipses all the noise in the pub, taking on a near-squeaky quality.
"Maybe it's because you're a prick, Fred," Rosanne observed wryly, then took a sip of her beer.
Across from her, David couldn't help but agree with a cool shrug. "You can be a bit of an asshole."
"Only a bit?" Rosanne laughed. "You really don't have a clue."
"Bollocks!" Fred shouted in defence.
"Especially when it comes to women," Rosanne continued. "You're just lucky you've never tried hitting on me, because I've got a very good right hook."
"She does," David agreed glibly.
Fred fixed him with a glare. "You! Traitor!"
Shaking her head, Rosanne leaned over the booth and attempted to grab Fred's pint of beer, but he snatched it out of her reach. "Now, now, we're only stating the simple truth – it doesn't mean we still don't love you, you drunkard," she laughed. "What do you say, Evey?"
The question directed at Evey didn't seem to register on her face. Beside Rosanne and across from Fred and Dave, Evey was busy rolling her mug between her hands and staring detachedly at the discarded Guy Fawkes mask on the table. Fred, as much of London, had the full Fawkes attire. Or should she say V attire? Complete with black shirt, pants, cape, hat, wig and mask. Fred wore a pair of dirty old runners on his feet, however. With the mask on, though, Evey could almost believe…
There were hundreds wandering the streets at this time, and Evey couldn't help but wonder if V was among them – walking free and undetected. Or perhaps her hopes were too high.
"Evey?" Rosanne's voice cut through her thoughts.
Her head snapped up, regarding the three at her table. "Yeah?"
Fred grinned, having apparently forgotten his anger. "You were completely zoned out there, staring at my mask." He lifted it off the table as if to prove his point. "Creepy looking, isn't it?" He fitted it to his face for a moment, and although he looked like V, Evey would have easily been able to write him off as an impostor. It was all in the posture and the way the head was held.
"I was thinking more along the lines of mysterious," Evey said.
Fred removed the mask and turned to regard its visage. He grinned again, grabbing his beer and lifting it above their heads. "I second that! To the mysterious man who blew up Parliament and who I can thank for this free pint!"
The remaining three did the same, chinking their glasses together so hard that the beer spilt over onto their hands. And they drank.
Slamming her mug down onto the table, Rosanne sighed and checked her watch. "So, what do you three say about heading over to the bridge?"
Half of London seemed to be shut down for the coming of midnight. Roads were blocked off and traffic was halted completely from going over the London Bridge. Now, throngs of people had begun making their way to the bridge and the edge of the river. They took cabs and then walked on foot when the streets became too crowded.
Evey approached this sight with a sort of awe, and if her arms hadn't been linked to David and Rosanne's, and Rosanne's to Fred, she might have found herself lost in the masses of people. Beer seemed to be flowing freely, still, and the people around them grew louder and more raucous as midnight approached.
Evey could barely hear Rosanne over the noise.
"We've got to get closer! I want a good view!"
The group of four had to fight their way onto the bridge, not even bothering with apologies for bumping because it was nearly impossible to be heard over the din of voices. Air horns, too, and firecrackers. A group of people near them scattered as a firecracker was thrown in their midst, and Evey was nearly bowled over. She was beginning to regret wearing her heels.
Somehow, they managed to make it onto the middle of the bridge where the two towers loomed over them in the night sky. There, as they made it to the edge of the bridge, the first fireworks were lit and screamed into the sky over the river with a burst of colour and light that illuminated them all as if it were day out.
The people broke into loud cheers, the sound hurting Evey's ears. Yet she watched the fireworks with a sense of awe; the glittering colours and sharp screams they emitted only seemed to excite London further. Beside her, Fred removed his V mask to watch a firework explode into a million colours of light and then zip around in the air before hitting the Thames. They cracked and snapped, whistling in a celebration that nearly brought Evey to tears.
V would like this, she knew. The display rivalled his during the destruction of Parliament.
So caught up in the display and the deafening noise, at first Evey didn't hear the screams. Or she did and assumed it was the people shouting their appreciation. The fireworks went on and on, and only when she happened to hear the familiar sound of gunfire mingled in with the cheers (the screams!), did she take notice of what was going on around her.
By then, it was too late.
The masses of people seemed to move as one. A river, fast and unpredictable. Downstream. Off the bridge.
Evey was caught up in a stampede brought on by panic and fear. She was ripped away from her friends before she could utter a word, swept away in a sea of people fleeing for their lives. She tried to fight against it, but she was being pushed and shoved forward, screams in her ears, disorientating her, spinning her around. The fireworks still lit up the night sky, but now there was something else. Flames. Gunshots.
For a second, Evey caught sight of what had brought on this terror. There were army trucks, men with guns blocking one exit off the bridge. And advancing. A man with a loudspeaker stood atop one of these trucks, shouting something that Evey couldn't understand. But there was a rifle slung over his shoulder, and that said enough.
And then someone caught her in the face with a stray elbow. She was sure it wasn't intentional, but the blow knocked her off her feet and sent pain shooting through her head. As she fell, Evey knew that the stampede would be merciless and she would be trampled.
But she felt herself being yanked in a different direction – upwards – with her hand grasped firmly within a larger, gloved one. It was Fred, mask in place and cape swirling, dragging her along with the flow of the crowd, running off the bridge. Still disoriented from the blow, Evey let herself be pulled to safety.
Once off the bridge, the crowd dispersed in all directions, making it easier to run. Evey felt the heel on one of her shoes snap, but Fred's grip on her hand wouldn't allow for a pause in running, so she continued without protest. Two blocks from the bridge the noise seemed like a distant memory; the sound of gunshots was in the distance and the screams had lessened.
Abruptly, Fred yanked her into the darkness of an alley and released her hand. Panting, Evey fell against the side of a building just in time for her other heel to snap off and twist her ankle.
"Damnit!" she yelled, leaning down to rip off her shoes. She threw them away, into the darkness.
"Evey!" a voice called suddenly, and she looked up just in time to see Rosanne enter the alley and fly into her arms.
"Oh god! Evey! Did you see it?" Rosanne cried, tears streaming down her face. "Did you see them?"
Swallowing thickly, suddenly feeling her own tears stinging her eyes, Evey nodded. Her grip tightened on Rosanne.
"Those bastards!" her friend yelled hoarsely. "Those goddamn fucking bastards!"
Evey squeezed her eyes shut, hoping for a moment that this was all a bad dream and that she would wake up in her bed to her alarm clock beeping at her; she wished that when she opened her eyes she would be back in the Shadow Gallery and V would be playing music in the background and she would realize that she'd merely fallen asleep reading a book…
But Rosanne pulled away, and when Evey opened her eyes, she saw that there were tears glittering on her friend's face.
"What do we do, Evey?" Rosanne asked in a panicked, hushed voice.
Evey could still hear the sound of gunfire. It seemed to be moving closer, and people were still running past their hideaway as if the devil was on their heels. She couldn't speak.
"Evey, we need to find Fred and Dave," Rosanne rationalized, taking deep breaths. "They're still out there somewhere!"
"Wait! I—" Evey's eyes went to the alley around them, yet it bore no masked man in the darkness. A cold weight settled in her stomach and a deep shiver ran up the length of her spine, ending at the back of her head where it seemed to drill and itch into her brain. No…
Rosanne grasped her suddenly by the arm, startling Evey.
"There!" She was pointing out of the alley, down the main road. It was chaos. Pulling Evey with her, Rosanne bolted from their shelter and plunged into the fleeing crowd. Evey's bare feet slapped almost painfully on the pavement, but Rosanne kept dragging her along. She followed blindly, feeling sick to her stomach. The people around her passed in the blur, shouts and gunfire muffled in her ears. Above, smoke hung over the streets, blocking out the moon.
And then Evey was beside David, who was being held up by Fred. He had blood staining the leg of his jeans. Fred had discarded his mask, hat and wig, which confused Evey greatly. Yet trying to rationalize the moment was useless because the next second Rosanne had slipped under David's arm and they were moving again; hobbling pitifully in an attempt to escape the terror behind them.
It was Fred, calling to her – calling for her to keep up.
She glanced behind them quickly before rushing after them.
They traded off, helping David through a maze of backstreets. Slowly, the noise faded. They didn't talk because they were too afraid and stunned to say anything. It began to rain, and Evey finally became aware of the pain in her feet.
Perhaps ten minutes later, they were far from London Bridge and managed to wave down a passing taxi. Three of them piled into the back and Evey sat in the front.
"I'll go to the hospital with Dave – we'll be fine, Fred." Rosanne said as the taxi pulled away. "What happened, Dave?"
"Got caught up in the crowd – I'm not sure," came the strained reply. He would say no more.
The whole drive, Evey was fixated on the thick smoke rising above London. Rosanne and David were dropped off at the emergency entrance with well wishes, leaving Fred and Evey alone. She wanted to ask him about him pulling her through the crowd, but couldn't bring her mouth to form any words.
When the taxi rolled up in front of her building Evey turned to say 'Thank you,' but all that came out was, "Good bye."
"See you tomorrow, Evey," Fred nodded.
And then she was barefoot and in the rain again. She managed to fish her keys out and get inside the building, where she proceeded to sprint up the stairs to her flat. She slammed the door behind her and didn't even take off her coat before rushing into the main room – the kitchen – the bedroom. She flipped on all the lights. Yet even the lights didn't reveal anything out of the ordinary.
She almost didn't realize she had been hoping V would be there until she collapsed on her couch facing the window. Tears stung at her eyes. The smoke was visible because of the city lights, and it still hung over London like a cloud of death.
Evey wondered where V was.
She wondered if he had anticipated this night.
She wondered if her imagination was playing tricks on her.
She laid her head down on the arm of the couch and grappled with the TV remote. Her fingers felt numb.
Evey went to bed feeling defeated after watching the BTN's coverage of the evening's events. The attack was being accredited to Norsefire, or what little of the regime remained intact after last year's events. Political takeover by way of force. New government. New leader. New country.
She tried several times to reach Rosanne, but after the fourth time listening to her answering machine, Evey turned off the TV and gave up.
She unlatched her window andpushed it open. It was still raining. Eveyhoped dearly that when morning came it would have all been one terrible dream.
And she would wake up in the Shadow Gallery to the smell of V cooking breakfast.
A/N: Well, I wasn't originally planning to add a third chapter, but now that I have you might deduce that I'm probably going to add a fourth.
Sorry if Evey seems rather…useless (for lack of a better word) in this chapter. I assure you that will change in Part IV.
As always, please leave a review and tell me what you think!