Contrary to popular belief, the big bad wolf is not only present in fairy tales and Little Red Riding Hood is not safe once she grows up – just look at the awful fate her grandmother suffered. It’s something I’ve learnt the hard way living in New York City: the city that never sleeps. It’s such a romantic notion, personifying a place and idealising the bustling nature of commodity it harbours. But no one takes into consideration what this lack of slumber really means – or rather, how fictitious it is. The city does sleep. Sure, the lights may never go out; the traffic may never come to a total standstill; the streets may never be completely void of life. But civilisation does sleep. It must in order to remain civilised. The glowing eyes of Broadway do not sleep and, as a result, I am wary of the walk back home before I even make it to the bar.

My name is Genevieve Thompson – daughter of Greg and Elisa Thompson, who can be reached at +1 (929) 478-0358. I’m on my way to meet a man I know as Daniel Montague, at The Dead Rabbit – a bar on the corner of Water and Broad Street in Lower Manhattan. My name is Genevieve, it’s 8pm, and already I’m being followed by a pack of wolves.

I keep my eyes trained on the way that my feet collide with the cement and focus on the audible crunch of the litter underfoot; anything to diminish the glowing eyes illuminating my path. Some of them shout confidently in their moonlit disguise, beads of saliva falling into their unkept beards or dripping down their stubbly chins. Others simply make comments under their breath – a soft growl that sends shivers every which way. The goosebumps rising on my skin aren’t a result of the brisk fall weather, but rather their tones which mock genuine admiration and concern.

‘Well, hello there darling. How are you tonight?’

‘Oh my, aren’t you beautiful?’

‘Can I help you out there at all, sweetheart?’

It’s impossible to even tell where each comment comes from, and instead they all mould into an aggressive shouting of the one word that dominates the hunt – SLUT.


The room is lowly lit as I step into The Dead Rabbit, boding well for the performance I have planned this evening. Without the spotlight on me, I’m given the opportunity to characterise myself as what they want me to be – the effervescent angel seeking a simple life. Yet at the same time, I’m expected to remain an enigma – giving just enough of myself away to leave them wanting more. Never too much. That is the most important part. Especially when it comes to me, whose very core houses so many opinions not appreciated by the silent but relentless majority.

The bartender smiles at me and looks me up and down as I take a seat at the bar – I pretend not to notice. I order an old fashioned, which earns an odd look from my new friend and the comment ‘but, isn’t that a man’s drink?’ from the wolf a few stools down. I smile politely and thank the bartender for the glass, rewarding the other with nothing but an inward roll of my eyes. This night is already off to a great start. Downing my glass, I watch the hands on the clock of the wall opposite marching ever so slowly and taunting me all the same.


Although I’ve only seen a carefully curated scrapbook of his life – friendly pictures and exaggerated biographical notes that would suggest one doesn’t have a single clue who they actually are – I know it’s him as soon as he walks under the low-lying arch of the entrance. I chose the venue; it was a risky move, and not somewhere I’d usually find myself, but I thought it would make me exude a carefree attitude. He looks right past me as his eyes scan the room – I knew he would. Not because he doesn’t recognise me or because his eyes have betrayed him, but as a part of that one-player game. He’s trying to make me feel insecure, as though my physical appearance doesn’t match up to what he saw and liked online. I know better, but I won’t let him know this – at least not yet.


I didn’t realise we knew each other well enough to already be using nicknames, but I’ll go along with it.

‘Hi! Dan?’

‘Hey, how are you?’

Is he asking because he genuinely wants to know, or is it merely a box that he’s ticking? Assuming the worst and in an attempt to remain on the same wavelength, I don’t give a genuine answer.

‘Great, thanks – and you?’

‘Good. A bit chilly outside – isn’t it?’

Oh god, we’re already onto the uncomfortable small talk. Of course, it’s fucking cold, it’s November for heaven’s sake. Have I not been enthusiastic enough? I should probably work on that.

‘Tell me about it! Shall we order a drink to warm up?’

Anything to distract me from the social awkwardness and total lack of connection. Anything to speed up this arduous process. I suppose I’m not really giving him a chance – he could be lovely; he could just be nervous. But unfortunately – for both him and me – I’ve been through this far too many times to not be sceptical. Not to mention, all I can think about is that dreaded walk home through the metropolitan wood.

‘So, I’m not gonna lie – you’re actually the oldest chick I’ve ever dated.’

I sit and ponder this. His profile definitely stated an age of twenty-seven. Interesting.

‘Oh, really? How come you did in fact match with me then – if you don’t mind me asking, of course?’ I mind asking. I am a whole two years younger than him, and suddenly I dread where this conversation is going.

‘Most chicks around my age want children – I’m not ready for that. But your profile said no children, can’t have them, huh?’

‘I just don’t want to…’ I don’t even get the chance to finish that thought.

‘Oh, strange, but cool. You’ll probably change your mind though, hey? Accidents happen too. You wouldn’t get an abortion, would you?’


I’ve known this man two hours, and already that’s more than enough. It’s clear we have different views on the world and I suddenly feel sick to my stomach. And, just like that, I feel his bare hand breaking the smooth flesh of my abdomen and digging deep within the depths of my soul. He doesn’t retract it until he has a firm grasp on my bleeding womb; untimely ripped. He pockets it, without any regard for its delicacy – as though it’s merely spare change that he’ll ultimately forget about and find in the bottom of his washing machine weeks, maybe even months, down the track. Stitching me back up with his piercing gaze, I sit in silence; mourning what is no longer mine to have or to control.

The conversation thankfully changes course, yet it doesn’t take any turn for the better. My modern Frankenstein is back to what he does best. I watch his gaze flicker from my lips to my breasts; I watch his eyebrows scrunch in disappointment; I watch as he mentally enlarges them by at least two cup sizes. For a moment, I think I even see his eyes glow. All in a minute’s work. If circumstances were different, I might have found it impressive. As I tuck my dirty blonde hair behind my ears, I see him turning it a few shades lighter – turning my skin a little more sun kissed. And as I speak, I see him searching his briefcase for a needle and thread – anything to stop the drone of words leaving my mouth. I am his monster – both before he has had his way with me and afterwards.

I can see him clear as day, subconsciously moulding me into his own creation; something that could never naturally exist. But there’s nothing I can do to prevent it. At that moment, I feel the weight of Anne, Maria, and Diana; of Zelda and Zora; Virginia and her Judith; of Edmonia and Artemisia – of the women that history neglected. The flames of their stories extinguish as the candle wax wanes. They are perched on my shoulder, floating around my head, clinging to my ear. I hear their whispers of consolation in anguish, and I hear their voices; a collective roar of feminine force. My skull holds the whirlwinds of absolute rage manifesting as a single tear on my cheek upon an otherwise poised demeanour. To compromise my composure would be interpreted through a funnel of innate femininity. Innate not in womanhood, but in the gaze we are met with.

‘Oh, what’s wrong?’ The man I barely know looks at me with a crooked brow.

‘Oh nothing, just a really long week.’ I’m struggling to not let my emotions get the better of me.

‘On your period, huh?’

It’s shock. That’s what this feeling is. I struggle to contain myself any longer, despite the fact that we are in a very public place that is filled to the brim with male customers. I imagine myself on the stake, their fiery wrath licking my hard skin as it curls around my wrists. The pain is there, a distant stinging sensation – the kind you can forget about when your mind is occupied. My mind is always occupied, and they don’t like it. But I don’t let it encompass me. Don’t let it devour me in one foul swoop. It means I’m still here, and I’m still me. I drown out their growls and protests, barely even able to make out their unshaven beards and bare feet behind the gates of my prison cell. I instead focus on the calming sounds and sensations of my own bare feet on the hot embers as I shift my weight from one foot to the other in discomfort. Judging by their behaviour you’d think I’ve got pit of snakes erupting from my skull, ferociously snapping on command and wounding my next victim. But in contrast, the hair on my head, although messy, is an ordinary dirty blonde. In fact, the base of my neck still hosts the ringlets of a young girl – innocent and unsuspecting.

‘Evie, you good?’

He hasn’t even taken notice of the pure anger and hatred brimming in my eyes, and the men at the tables surrounding us are looking on in amusement. I won’t flee. I’m not a damsel in distress. I can do this.

‘Yeah, all good. I think I should probably get going, though – it’s getting pretty late.’

‘Oh, so soon? At least let me walk you ho–’

‘Somehow, I think I would be safer without you.’

I don’t wait for a response; I don’t even look back to gauge his reaction. I walk out of the bar calmly and with confidence, back onto the uncivilised streets. Back to the rest of the wolves. The eyes are still there, glowing at me in the darkness in their threatening way. But they’re silent. They wouldn’t dare utter a single word, for they’d be met with the beast.


I make it back to my apartment safely, all twelve blocks alone. I change into my pyjamas, grab a tub of Ben and Jerry’s cookie dough ice cream and sit on the couch I have bought in a living room I pay for myself. Staring out the floor-to-ceiling windows at the dazzling lights and full moon, I smile to myself. I’m okay here, exactly as I am. It’ll be a long time before I go on another date with a man. And I realise that I am completely okay with that; with having myself – away from the faceless monsters whose glowing eyes have turned me into a beastly thing myself.

Jasmine Oke is an English and Creative Writing major previously published in both The Quarry and Grapeshot. Experimentation and the exploration of feminine identity are what excite her most about fiction but, when not reading or writing, Jasmine is also an avid consumer of period dramas, theatre, and live music.

VENUS, Abbey Lawrey

‘A small almond cap, thanks.’ I reach into my bag, fumbling for my wallet around the supplies that clank as I walk.

Sunrays stream through the French windows that run across the front of the café. Plants hang from the ceiling, small adornments of flowers on the centre of each table. Baby’s breath, peonies, dahlias, buttercups, daisies. The rays bringing warmth back to my clammy skin as I take a seat in the centre of the light.

The day is beautiful and bright. The light reflects on the shiny polish of the coffee machine. The flowers tilt towards the sun’s warmth, the leaves running along the counter seem to stretch towards the rays.

I set aside the small vase of flowers and take out my sketchbook, an A3 leather-bound beauty with thick paper, perfect for light sketching, to using watercolours and heavier paints.

Something about this café, contently sized where the feature wall is a pattern of lemon bunches, and the most attention-seeking patrons are the live plants that cover any and every surface that’s not in the way.

And then of course… there’s the barista. He works so fluently, his flow not interrupted even if he looks away, his smile brightening his face and crinkling his eyes as he listens to customers that wait for their order, or laughs with his co-workers at something somebody said. Occasionally there’ll be a break or stall in someone talking, where he’ll look wistful, head inclined towards the sun.

I sigh. I brought a friend here once. ‘Yeah, he’s attractive,’ she’d said, ‘but he’s no Italian shoe.’ A.K.A. her celebrity crush, Timothée Chalamet. To me, he looks like an Italian shoe.

‘Maybe that’s why I like him,’ I’d replied.

Maybe it is. Maybe it’s how the sun seems to illuminate him, and the electric amber of his eyes against his golden skin, the dark brown of his hair turning to bronzes and coppers. Maybe it’s the fact he seems to enjoy what he does, and maybe that’s why I chose this café to keep coming back to. Maybe it’s also because this place is furthest away from the darkness, with all its brightness.

So much of the time when I meet people for coffee, they choose somewhere dull, or somewhere failing to achieve a sunny disposition. Employees attempting to genuinely smile, fake it, or not try at all. The unclean work spaces. The sticky, unbalanced tables.

Le Soleil Brille, French for “The Sun Shines” the barista once explained to me. His dad founded the café, has kept it running for thirteen years.

He laughs lightly at something someone says, before he looks down to put the lid on a takeaway coffee.

Nothing special… everybody is special.

His dad comes to whisper something to him and he flushes. His dad ruffles his hair as he walks away, then the barista looks up again—at me.

My heart lurches into my throat. I find myself frozen, unable to look away. The corners of his lips up turn as he leans across the counter to slide the coffee to a customer, and mouths, ‘Hi’, while looking at me, before he goes back to work, that smile still on his face.

All this time I’ve been coming here, and I still haven’t had the courage to even ask his name, despite being able to hold a conversation with him.

I avert my attention back to the blank page before me and look up again. I see him, I see his work, I see the people standing—waiting—but they’re a blur. I see the plant that sits beside the syrups and sugar. The small twigs branching off into flat paddles with a pink centre that turns to green spikes at the paddle’s end. One of the maws closes around a fly.

With the image engrained in my mind, lighting a fire behind my eyes and in my nerves, I begin to draw, hand sweeping over the page.

I sketch the coffee machine first, the tiled countertop, the outline of what’ll become the blurred patrons, the pot the plant sits in, and the syrups standing beside.

Creating the illusion of shadow is perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of drawing. It’s everywhere, different shapes and shades of monochrome. Depth is what makes a drawing a picture.

Shading is also messy, and the charcoal on my fingers wedges its way into the ridges of my fingerprint and under my nails.

I don’t note the feet padding toward me, until an arm dusted with cocoa powder sets down a coffee in front of me. I gape as I look at the image of a cottage against what could be a field of flowers or bushes, created with cocoa powder in the froth.

‘I know you’re an artist.’ The barista shrugs and nods at the coffee. ‘This is my art.’

My tongue feels loose and stunned at the same time. ‘I’m amazed,’ I breathe, ‘creating something so detailed and intricate with… milk,’ I laugh softly, ‘and cocoa powder.’

‘I know you pay attention to detail.’ He fidgets. ‘Admittedly, I look over your shoulder to see what you’re working on each time you’re here.’ He looks down at the beginning of my sketch, then up at me expectantly.

‘O-oh. I’m—well,’ I blush, covering my mouth, ‘I’m drawing you.’

He looks down at the page again, eyebrows furrowed.

‘I haven’t drawn you yet.’

He smiles again, looking back at me. ‘Let me know when I am.’

I nod.

He chuckles, leaning down towards me. ‘Hang on a moment.’ He returns behind the counter, only to return a moment later with a damp cloth. He brushes it over my cheek. ‘You have charcoal, there—and here.’ He dabs the cloth around my face and sets it down by the vase of flowers, out of my immediate way.

‘Thanks.’ I blush. ‘But don’t you need it?’ I point to the cloth.

He shrugs. ‘There’s plenty more where that came from.’ He smiles and returns to work, taking over from his co-worker.

I wipe my charcoal fingers on the cloth and blow the steam from my coffee. I don’t want to disturb the serenity of the image he’s created, but I’d feel horrible if I didn’t drink it for that reason. I sip at it, relishing in the warmth spreading through my body.

He’s the only one wearing all black in the café, staff and patrons alike. I wonder if it’s uniform, or whether he just likes the colour. Maybe he’s more susceptible to the cold, so the black absorbing the sun’s heat helps keep him warm, that and working with hot beverages too. Maybe that’s also why he wears black, to convince himself he’s not stained with coffee.

I chuckle at the thought and begin to draw the outline of him. The flex of his arm as he inserts and twists the coffee filter into the machine. I draw him in a picture of joy, laughter, and delight in his stature as he focuses on his work. It’s not a product of my imagination, he’s right in front of me; beautiful.

‘I’m looking good.’ He grins, observing my sketch after I’d waved him over.

I cover my mouth as I smile, and nod slowly. ‘I’m going to take it home to colour it and polish up the lemon wallpaper.’

He looks behind us at the bright feature wall. ‘I love that wall. I love the way it creates a warmth in the café.’

It creates a yellow haze too.

‘Are you sure you’re going to remember it? What you want to draw?’

‘I come here often enough that I see it when I close my eyes.’

He licks his lips. ‘Let me rephrase, are you going to remember me? Do you need a model?’

I chuckle. ‘I see you too, don’t worry. I appreciate the offer, but you’re so photogenic and the image of you in my head is so candid. If you tried to recreate it, it wouldn’t be the same.’

He gazes at me. ‘Maybe I’m just looking for an excuse to spend time with you outside of work.’

My cheeks warm, my chest aching. I don’t know what to say…

‘Another time.’ He straightens and turns to leave but pauses. ‘I see you, too.’

I watch as he walks back, mouth agape. I’m worried I upset him, until our eyes catch several times, even as he continues to work, and he seems to relax with relief. It’s an effort to pull my eyes from him, but I find myself glancing back at that plant by the syrups. Although I can’t remember its name, I remember sticking my finger inside its paddles as a child, giggling when it closed around me, thinking it could pin me down.

 Another coffee is set down beside me.

‘I-I didn’t order another one,’ I protest as he straightens, picking up my empty mug.

‘I know.’ He smiles, standing to his full height. ‘This one’s on me.’

‘Oh. Thank you.’ I point with my pencil to the plant with the spikes. ‘What’s the name of that plant again? It’s on the tip of my tongue…’

‘Why would you need the name to draw it?’

I laugh. ‘I don’t, but it’s bothering me that I can’t remember.’

‘Venus flytrap.’ He chuckles.

‘Ah. That’s right.’ I purse my lips and he laughs. ‘They’re quite beautiful.’

‘Not all monsters are ugly.’

‘You think it’s a monster? I’ve seen worse monsters.’

He sets my empty mug back down and considers the flytrap as it snaps up another fly. ‘I think… its doing what it must to survive in its own way, its own grotesque way.”

My heart thumps and I swallow around the lump in my throat. ‘Aren’t we all?’

‘To some extent maybe.’

‘Hm.’ I tilt my head to look at it from a different angle. ‘Venus flytrap. I wonder what made someone decide to call it “Venus.”’

He cocks his head in question.

I give him an obvious look. ‘Venus? The Roman goddess of love? The Greek version of Aphrodite.’

‘Oh.’ He laughs lightly. I note the quick rise and fall of his chest as he gazes at me thoughtfully. ‘How do I not know your name yet? Surely, I would’ve heard it. I read and call out hundreds of names a day.’ The sun illuminates him from behind as it sinks lower into the afternoon, accompanying the wistful look on his face.

I shrug. ‘I don’t know. I don’t know yours either.’

‘I’m Silas.’ He holds out a hand.

I grip it. ‘Antoinette. But I get Anti or Ant.’

‘Ant!?’ He grins. ‘You better stay away from Venus then.’ He nods his head to the flytrap. ‘Not that you’re a bug,’ he clarifies.

‘I’m glad you can tell.’

He covers his face with his hands. ‘Oh god. Forget I said anything.’

I laugh. ‘You’re so photogenic,’ I note again, resting my chin on my hand.

He grips the table and gulps. ‘Wait for me.’


‘I finish my shift in ten. I don’t know what we’d do, I just know,’ he lets out a puff of air, ‘I just know I want to see more of you and spend time with you outside of work.’

‘Okay,’ I say softly, smiling at him. ‘I’ll pack up and finish my complimentary coffee.’

He grins. ‘Perfect.’

We both look back at the plant, and back at each other with a shared smile.

Plant. Venus… love…


Abbey Lawrey is a lover of fantasy and romance, writing worlds spurred from her imaginings. She gladly drowns in her extensive collection of novel ideas and WIPs that range from contemporary love stories, to dark, knife-against-the-throat, mythical fantasy worlds inspired by Ancient Greek mythology.