My third encounter with her was in the kitchen, on the first night of the dig in Greece. We had just arrived in the house we would be staying at (me, the other students, and Ana, the dig co-supervisor), after a three-hour drive from the airport. Ana liked to drive with the windows down, letting the warm air fly into our faces in a way that I found unpleasant. I preferred the control of the air conditioning. When we got out, three figures stood on the porch, cigarettes in hand. A dog came running towards us from indoors, and I could feel a mosquito humming in my ear.

Later that evening, once we’d eaten, we decided among ourselves who would sleep where. There were two rooms left, one with a double, the other with two singles. Actually, the second room wasn’t its own room at all; really it just formed part of the corridor that led to the other bedrooms. As we were three girls and one guy, it should have been easy to sort this out, but Katie and I mentioned our boyfriends. Nicole shrugged, unphased at the thought of sharing. Howell, on the other hand, assured all of us that he was gay, and therefore the sleeping situation should be a non-issue.

Aoife, isn’t it? she asked, when we returned to the kitchen. She wasn’t helping the others to wash up, because it seemed as though there were already too many cooks (two Greeks, one British). Instead, she sat at the table, cards dealt out in front of her, a small glass of something in her left hand.

My eyes shot open, suddenly recognising her. Oh, I said, you’re—

She nodded. We met at the department Christmas drinks last year. I’m in the same department as the four of you actually, she said to us, all the newcomers, though really it was to the room at large. I’m one of those graduate students whose existence you like to ignore. I’ve seen you around the library—Aoife, Katie, Nicole, Howell, right? She counted round us.

I’m surprised you know us so well, Nicole said, sitting down and pouring herself a glass from the bottle.

I am quite observant, she said, to no one in particular.


Just hours before, I had been at Heathrow, waiting out my last few hours of freedom before I sacrificed them to the cause of a late Roman urban development. I sat in a café, where I had accidentally ordered baked beans to go with my avocado toast. I forced them into my mouth as I watched notifications buzz through on my phone.

I’ve just checked in my bags—how long did it take you to go through security?

So excited to meet you guys!

I’m sitting outside Fortnum and Mason, if anyone wants to join

I’ve just got to look for a hat any ideas where I could get a cheap one?

I joined in the conversation, of course, but I only replied tactfully. I wasn’t going to go and meet them until the last possible moment. I wouldn’t be properly alone again for three weeks.


Later that night, standing outside on the porch and feeling a bit dizzy from the drive and the bus and the flight and the wait and the other flight and the drive and the wine, I called my boyfriend. He sounded drunk too, in a cosy way, and told me he was sitting by the pool.

I’ve been looking through the novels you recommended, he said.


Yeah. Why do none of the authors you like use speech marks? Is that considered gauche nowadays?

You can’t complain about my pretentious tastes, I said. I watched all of Michael Haneke’s oeuvre with you last summer. Including both versions of Funny Games, which I regret.

Well, look, Haneke’s legacy is indisputable. But I know we disagree on this. Anyway, how are your fellow diggers?

Hard to tell. Anyway, it doesn’t bother me. I’m not here to make friends. I have enough already, probably.

That bad, are they?

I’ve got to get to bed, I said. We’re up at 6am for digging tomorrow.

Blimey, that’s early.

Between my finger and my thumb/ The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.


Never mind.


That first night there, I went to the bathroom to wash my face and teeth, and while I had the security of the locked door, I returned to my private tab, one earphone in, the open ear alert.

The story of all the videos I watched was pretty much the same. I believe it’s considered archaic to have a real plot, though this may have been down to my preferred search terms: ‘Forced’, ‘she doesn’t realise’, ‘surprise anal’. I watched two such videos, taken from behind on cameras the women didn’t know existed. Then I packed up my toiletries and went to bed.

It was a bad habit, like any other. But in a new place, in a new bed, I needed to do something familiar if I had any chance of getting to sleep.


I didn’t know what I was going to do this summer, I told her on the porch one night, much later. She was smoking lazily. I had followed her outside, insisting I liked the fresh air.

I didn’t know what I was going to do this summer, and then someone mentioned this dig and it seemed like such a good opportunity. I realised I sounded very earnest—I was always making that mistake when I tried to impress girls like her.

Sometimes, I said to her, I don’t understand how people afford anything. Everyone at college talks about the holidays they’re going to go on over the summer and what they’d like to do, and then they ask me why I’m going to a dig in the middle of nowhere in Greece when I don’t even like archaeology that much. I actually prefer philology, but this is the only way I get sun and a break from home, you know? It’s stressful having to come up with answers that everyone will believe.

She leaned over and took the wine glass from my hand. You’re drunk, she said calmly. Go to bed.


That first morning on the dig, we bundled into the car at 7am and drove to the site. The dig leader, Vassilis, took the new students in his car, while the older ones went with Ana. Vassilis played music for the entire thirty-minute drive. Howell nodded off, but the rest of us didn’t speak. Me and Nicole puffy-eyed from sleeping badly, Katie looking alert. This was the first time I’d heard Adele’s ‘Hello’, but I disliked it so much I thought it must not be the real version.

We didn’t dig at all in the first half of the morning. Vassilis introduced us to everyone, and then he took us on a tour of the site, the excavated parts and parched fields around it, throbbing with insects and sun. He explained how the history of this town had changed, going from a bustling centre in the Roman imperial period to the sad early medieval parts we had to sift through now. He told us about the analysis they had done on the food remains, how they had a thorough understanding of the diets of the people who lived here. We made a circuit of the town’s border, along empty, dusty lanes. I hadn’t realised that Greece could look like this, a cadaverous desert. The ground was coming away into sand under my feet, colouring the exposed parts of my shins orange.


In the bathroom, while I brushed my teeth, I thought about all the previous times I’d encountered her, and about the second time in particular. How she had looked, face flushed, as she turned to the man and said, I want you, I want you to fuck me now.

The way that the video was taken meant that you couldn’t see his face, which I found a great shame. I think I would have been able to understand her better, if only I knew what he looked like.


We were in the field by 7.30 (8am at the latest) every day, and we dug solidly until 1pm. For the first week, I was assigned a drain with Katie. She told me about her boyfriend, her plans for their future, the law conversion course he was taking next year.

I think it sounds like a sensible thing to do, she grinned. But I love that we get the chance to have these experiences now, before we’re too old, you know?

I was two years older than her, but I kept silent.

I’d made the mistake of bringing my water bottle to sit beside me, rather than leaving it in the shade, so by 9.30 it was well beyond lukewarm, incapable of providing relief.


Aoife’s boyfriend is a sports star, you know, she told the dinner table one evening.

Faces upturned. This was unexpected. I sensed that they already thought I was difficult to get talking.

Really? one of the Greek students asked. You don’t look like the jock type.

It’s not a jockish sport, I explained. It’s fencing.

She tried to explain, in broken Greek, what fencing was to those who hadn’t understood.

Nicole and Howell had questions: who was he? How good was he? Did he play Varsity?

She caught my eye as I answered their questions dutifully, feeling my words catch on something reluctant in my chest, down where I imagined my diaphragm was.


I found myself watching her video every night before bed. The video was harder to watch now that I knew her better. She squealed at first, playfully, and then it became sharper.

Don’t go near my ass, she said firmly.

The video showed him doing otherwise.

She was resistant, and then she wasn’t, and then she was. I found it very upsetting.


What did you do today? I asked my boyfriend on the phone. This was in the afternoon, before our late lunch. Every day, we would come back and shower, and prepare the food on a rota. Everyone dispersed while we waited to eat, kept to themselves in different parts of the house so that it felt empty, eerie, in the lull.

We went for a cycle to the village for a pastry and des glaces, he said. We bought bread for the house. You’ll like it here, when you come.

I nodded, although he couldn’t see me.

What did you do today?

Digging. We’ll clean the finds after lunch. I found a piece of glass, but Vassilis told me it was worthless and I had to throw it away. Next time, I’ll just steal it instead, but he watched me to make sure I did what he said. Best archaeological practice, I guess.

By the way, I read that book you suggested. My Year of Rest and Relaxation.

Oh, and?

It’s just a bit nihilistic, isn’t it? I could have done with more background fleshed out in the bits about her parents, like why she was so fucked up.

Didn’t you like all that satire on the art world, though?

It was well done, he conceded. My parents have friends like that.


Aoife! She beckoned me over. I dropped my trowel and eased up slowly. The sun was scorching, and behind my eyes there was an indistinct headache brewing.

Eleni has brought some olives from her family’s farm, she said.

Eleni offered me a tupperware full of fresh olives. One of the Greek students, she was the only one who didn’t sleep at the house with the rest of us, because her parents lived near enough for her to drive in every day.

She continued talking to Eleni, asking her about her family, her goats, her thesis.


She took to playing cards with me and Howell. In the evenings after dinner, we would sit with wine on the porch, and she would ask Howell repeatedly if he minded her smoking, as though she already knew how I felt about it. We bickered over the rules of gin rummy, a game that my parents had taught me but which they both insisted was an erroneous amalgamation of two different, distinct, games.

How is your research coming along? he asked her, in the pauses between rounds.

She shrugged. We’ve found some interesting stuff here. I won’t be able to use any of it for my thesis, obviously, but it helps me to think. I’ll have to track down similar finds from other published sites to include instead. Being here is only delaying my writing. But it’s also the best part of the whole experience, for me.

I don’t know how you find so much to write about. He looked at me. Do you think you’d ever do a PhD?

I shrugged. I was happy to let them talk, listening to her careful answers, occasionally feeling the flex of her toes beside me on the bench, one shin tucked under her body. I’d do anything if I got the funding.

She arched an eyebrow at Howell. That’s how it all starts, she said.

I’m trying to figure out what my dissertation should be on. Howell continued to probe her. Do you have any advice for final year?

Very few people will ever look at your undergrad dissertation, she said.

Do you know what yours is going to be, Aoife?

I still have time, I said, my eyes on the cards. We have months before we have to think about that stuff.


Afternoon, on the back terrace of the dig house.

My dad used to try to make up for things, I overheard her telling Katie and Nicole. Because my mum died when I was so small, he was always very intent on us talking about girl things, you know, periods and make-up and everything.

It was only 5pm, so it was still sweltering. According to the daily ritual, we washed the new finds with fine toothbrushes and laid them out to dry in the sun. Sometimes we helped to catalogue them, assigning numbers and letters based on predefined categories and locations. This was my favourite part. I could take or leave the digging.

He brought me to see all the Twilight movies, she explained, because I had no friends to go with. He’d chat with me about whether I was Team Edward or Team Jacob. At the start of one of them—maybe Eclipse—both guys swanned across the screen, you know, their bodies on like, full display. He was so eager to let me know he was comfortable with me talking about guys with him. It was a relief when I told him I preferred girls so it would stop.

Beside me, I could sense Eleni watching my hands, fidgeting over the same sherds.


In the second week, I was moved onto the foundations of a house with Nicole, supervised by Ana. Ana showed us how to recognise the remains of a staircase. We kept uncovering pieces of pottery, and each time we did, I called Ana over. Eventually she asked me to stop unless something actually good turned up.


Katie asked me if I could either speed up my pre-sleep beauty regime, or else leave the porch and come to bed earlier.

I hate to be that girl going on about needing sleep, she said (measured but desperate). And I don’t want to have a go at you, but we have to get up so early and every time you get into bed it wakes me up.

I thought about Howell’s nightly bathroom trips, and how no one questioned what he might be doing.

I’ll come to bed earlier, I assured her, and I’ll be more quiet.

Instead, I moved my mattress slightly. If I titled it just so, it would enable me to lie in bed and watch videos without anyone being in danger of seeing. That way, I could stay out on the porch with her as long as I liked.


The next day, Nicole and I dug up some skeleton parts (‘human remains’ is the preferred term among archaeologists, Ana explained), including a skull and part of a hip bone. Ana dealt with the matter skilfully, showing the students the auricular surface and the sciatic notch, indicators of whether the person had been male or female. Once she realised they would be taken to a museum and not buried, Nicole asked if she could pray over the bones, and Ana joined her, more out of pedagogic duty, I think, than shared faith. All of the students bowed their heads in respect, though I raised my eyes regularly to observe the others. Her head was tilted, and a crease in her cheek told me she was biting away at the inside of it.


We took turns to walk Vassilis’ dog in the afternoons, and on the first Saturday I went with her. Her hair hung about her shoulders, and it was strange to see it out like that because she usually kept it in a bun.

Look, she said, I’ve been wanting to get out and have a talk.

We were walking down the steep hill that led up to the house, with only dry dust on the ground and trees around us. I had never seen her toes before, because we all wore hiking boots while digging. I watched them now, gradually getting dirtier through her sensible (yet still stylish) sandals. It was 4pm. My ears rang with the heat.

She opened her phone, and showed me a picture of my face on a dating app. The signal is shitty out here, she said, but I do manage to get on occasionally.

I had liked her profile, months before, just after we had met at the Christmas drinks. I wondered why it had taken her so long to see it.

That was ages ago, I said. I don’t even have that app any more. I had to delete it before I came out here to make room for Skype.

I don’t like drama, she said, returning the phone to the back pocket of her shorts, and taking the dog lead with her right hand again. I know you have a boyfriend. I don’t need answers. I just… I want to know whether you’re the sort of girl who only messages other girls when she’s drunk, and then won’t reply when they do.

I took her other hand abruptly. There was a small clearing through the trees by the side of the road; I’d noticed it before.

The air hummed with cicadas, still deathly bright under the glare of the sun. The heat would last for hours more. The trees provided little comfort as I drew her into the clearing with me, but the slightly dappled light meant I could take off my sunglasses and look at her straight on.

She took away her hand irritably. This isn’t some sapphic intrigue, all these looks and little touches—

When I kissed her, she relaxed into me, and I twined my left hand in hers, my right at the back of her neck.

Thank you, she said, re-adjusting the lead in her hand. We’d better get a move on; the dog doesn’t like to be kept waiting.


I was upset to see the skull, Nicole explained that night, because they just remind me of what people went through. I just hate the thought that we’ll never know what happened to that person, you know?

Nicole had joined us on the porch, but she didn’t want to play cards. She was sipping her wine nervously. I felt myself drinking fast, making up for the silences as Nicole talked endlessly about the skull. We tried to console her, reminding her that unexplained skulls did turn up on digs.

I hazily remembered another smudged night, the last time I had drunk like this. It had been after a fencing match. A hotel bar and a nasty bottle of Shiraz. I realised then that I hadn’t called my boyfriend in five days, but it didn’t bother me.


The bathrooms in the dig house were in the basement. In one, there was no demarcation between the rest of the floor and the shower, only a draining hole and a shower head right above.

The girls in the videos I watched were mostly anonymous, all apart from her, instantly recognisable because of her unusual first name. The title of the video was ‘He surprised me with anal and I gushed SO hard’, which made it seem more wholesome than it was. He grunted out her name as he asked, please, could he do it, and she said no, and then he kept doing it anyway. Come on babe, it feels so good. She had a tattoo above her hip, not visible at first because the focus was on her bum. Once she realised what he was doing, she turned around, and then you could see it. Her dark hair, her tattoo, her hands with the short nails tearing at him round the sides of the frame.


What I thought about mostly, while we were digging under the relentless sun, was whether I should tell her. Nicole interrupted my thoughts frequently, trying to get me to talk about Brexit or Trump or the environment or anything else normal. We were making our way painstakingly across the floorplan of the room that we had decided must be the kitchen because of the amount of pottery we’d turned up, even though we were pretty sure Roman kitchens weren’t that big. From the video, it seemed clear that she objected to his choice of sex act, and also hadn’t noticed that he was recording her. I had seen it enough times to be certain of that. But it wasn’t clear if she knew now. And whether I should tell her raised all kinds of questions.

What are your boyfriend’s fencing plans for next year? Nicole asked, when politics couldn’t engage me.

He lost out in the final last year, I said, but I don’t know what’s next. I don’t really keep up.

She laughed at me. You’re so blasé about it. Have you seen that Ava Gardner movie, The Killers? I imagine you like her, watching Burt Lancaster from the sidelines.

My main memory is the Premier Inns, I told her, in a carefully constructed combination of droll and sardonic. I think I still have some of the teabags from the breakfast buffets.

I scraped the dry ground with my trowel, remembering instead the hotel room after the match, him coming to bed at 3am, pressing himself against me, the motion of it making me queasy, my head throbbing from the Shiraz. I’d borrowed the trowel from Eleni on the first day. We were told to bring our own if possible, so my mum brought me to B\&Q to pick one out. It had never occurred to me that gardening trowels and archaeological trowels were not the same thing.


We’ve been talking about the weekend, Howell informed me at dinner.

I sat next to her, and accepted the top-up from the bottle. Eleni has suggested we go out to Nafplio on Saturday, she explained.

It’s only an hour’s drive, Katie said, or maybe ninety minutes. Anyway, it would be fun. We could spend the day at the beach.

The previous weekend had been sleepy, adjusting to the schedule of the dig, Nicole, Katie, and I going for a short walk on Sunday afternoon. This weekend had been built up in everyone’s minds since the start, the one where we’d actually do something.

I stayed with Eleni last summer for a bit, she explained, after the dig closed up, and we had a pretty good time out there.

Their familiarity, her intimacy with Eleni’s homegrown olives and her basic grasp of Greek, suddenly seemed treacherous.

Sure, I said. Well, maybe. I’ll see how I feel. I have a headache building.

She squeezed my shoulder. Tell me if you need any painkillers. I have a full set, all the different kinds.


Have you read Agatha Christie’s memoirs? she asked me later on, when the others had gone to bed. We were finishing our game of German Whist. The conversations we had at night after dinner were short, terse, about whatever we wanted to say at the time, easy to fit round a game of cards.

No, but I have them on my Kindle.

You should read the ones where she’s on the digs with her second husband. They’re really sort of evocative of this whole thing.

I’ve read Murder in Mesopotamia. Are the memoirs very different?

It’s just the way she describes it all. The people, the close quarters, the… the little things. She smiled. Although their digs were pretty cushy by our standards. None of this beds-in-the-hall crap.


We went to a local museum today, my boyfriend told me on the phone. There were some Roman objects there—lamps and bowls and cups and even some intact glass bottles. It made me think of what you’re doing now.

I thought of him easing his fingers into my bum, and the fact that I’d kissed him back and moaned because that seemed easier, even though his nails were long and jagged at the edges. I remembered how the headache had set above my eyes, the same straight-jacket, tightly-laced weight that I could feel now.

We’ve moved on, I told him. We’re onto skeletons and murders now.

Christ. Speaking of which, I read the Donna Tartt book. The Secret History.

Well, now you know everything you need to about my kind.

I liked it a lot actually. Especially the bacchanals and everything.

All Classics students want to re-enact that novel on some level. We spend our entire degrees wondering how to go about it.

Should I be worried?


What else have you been up to?

I thought about the afternoon in the clearing in the woods, when I had kissed her mouth and the light from the pool behind me glinted off of her necklace. Each time I thought of it, it seemed less and less plausible, but it seemed more likely that it had happened than the alternative.

After a day of digging, I explained, you’re pretty exhausted.


On Friday morning, I woke early. I realised that in a week’s time we would be leaving the house to catch a flight to Limoges, and she would stay here and continue to spend her evenings on the porch.

I found the video and read through some of the comments while I brushed my teeth.

That scream. Actually BELIEVABLE

4.37. We all bust then

When she turns round and you see the tramp stamp

I wondered what they would think if they knew her, if they saw how her wrists were filled out in a way that made her look like an adult, rather than my own twiggy joints.


Ana moved me to work with Howell, clearing rubble from unexcavated sections of the complex. We spent the morning dumping wheelbarrows of dirt into the pit at the back of the site. An elderly Sicilian man was helping us. He was retired, but working on the dig for fun. He had lived here (in the same village as Eleni) for decades. The first week, he’d brought us all an ice cream breakfast, which we ate out of the car boot in the still pale sunlight.

I’d kill to be half as fit at his age, Howell said, noticing me watching the Sicilian. I just don’t understand how he can do it all.

The work was physical enough that it gave me an excuse not to talk. The headache had now settled firmly at my temples, pressing at the back of my skull, around my neck. I kept leaving my water out of the shade, so that when I went to drink it was already hot.

Do you need a painkiller? she asked me again, seeing me resting in the shade beside the dog.

I shook my head. I’ve taken some. It’s just hard work today.

She nodded. And the heat’s a killer too. Tell Ana if you don’t feel well. She won’t mind.


The others went to bed on the earlier side, gearing themselves up for an active Saturday. I asked her if she was going to go to Nafplio, but she shook her head.

I’ve been before. I’d rather stay here tomorrow. Lie in, get some reading done, maybe go for a walk.

I nodded stiffly, because each incline made my head throb more.

She met my eyes, and I wondered again if she remembered the afternoon in the clearing.

On our own on the porch, her breath smelled smoky, and it was easy to go from sitting side-by-side and playing piquet to kissing her. Her mouth was slightly clumsy with wine, which balanced out my dopey, headachy fumblings. Her short nails grazed against my skin, barely leaving an impression.

I ignored the pulsing in my head. Could put off dealing with it until I had to. Right now, there was no need for me to think. My hands were at her hips.

Can I—? I asked, not sure what I was asking for.

Yes, she said, as she readjusted herself. Her t-shirt rode up slightly as she did, brushing against me. The kind of cotton that I’d always found chafing. My fingers were almost exactly where her tattoo was in the video. I traced the shape of the Greek letters from memory. A pain shot through my head, and I got up.

She knelt on the bench cushion. Jesus, are you—?

I just feel really sick. It’s my head, be back in a minute.

I made my way downstairs to the bathrooms, supporting myself with a shaking hand against the wall. The vomiting took over as soon as I’d reached the sanctuary of the toilet. Afterwards, I lay curled on my side, unable to tell what temperature I was between the cold tiles against my flushed cheek, the beads of sweat.

I forced my eyes open, even though the light burned them, and searched for the video again. I had to check one final time, make sure it was her. The picture quality, of course, wasn’t great, but the combination of factors was too convenient, her unusual name and the tattoo of that particular Greek word. I paused to look at it, staring at the letters on a screen, the same ones I had actually touched only a few minutes before. I closed my eyes again.

Aoife? She had followed me downstairs. Fuck, Aoife, I’m so sorry. I’m so drunk it took me forever to realise how long you’d been gone, and—

She dropped down beside me, a gentle hand on my shoulder. Hey, you okay?

I managed to say some words about the headache, hoping she understood them. I pushed the side of my phone, trying to lock it, unable to find the right button. My eyes couldn’t focus. I felt her taking the phone from me, my useless fingers still pressing weakly at the lock button.

Here, give that to me, and we’ll—

She went silent. I knew she was looking at it, full-screen, paused, zoomed-in. I kept my eyes closed. I didn’t want to see her face.

I felt her settle on the ground beside me, legs crossed. I knew the video off by heart, realised immediately that she was watching it through. Her voice was giddy to begin with, higher and younger than it was now.


I’d been drawn to her because she didn’t seem to care what anyone else did, or what they thought of her. But after that night, she seemed to draw the others away with her. No one seemed to talk to me anymore, their conversation polite but always with a definite exit in sight. But then, I’d never been good at talking to anyone but her anyway.

At dinner, she had a knack for avoiding my eye when she passed around the pepper mill or the bowls of salad.


I found it in May, I’d explained to her. I had pulled myself up to sit with my back against the wall, able to rest my head on my knees when I wasn’t talking. I found it one night when I was bored and I felt ashamed afterwards. I felt sorry for you.

I hated him for what he did, I said later on, after the silence. In my shower every day, I wonder about different ways to track him down. Maybe there’s a way we could prosecute him or—I don’t know—get him back.

Who is he, anyway? I think if I could understand why you were with him and why you had sex with him in the first place, I’d understand enough to figure out what to do next.

When she still didn’t reply, I said: I’m a survivor too, you know, so I get it. I keep trying to forget it, but my boyfriend did something to me, last year, I mean like non-consensual, and I just let him do it, I even acted like I was into it. I had a migraine then too. I haven’t told anyone. I haven’t even mentioned it to him. Do you think I should? I know it’s nothing like what happened to you.

Eventually, I tested my eyes. The harsh light of the bathroom made them water. She was still sitting beside me, on the floor, but her eyes were fixed on the screen. She was scrolling down the comments, and her thumb kept going.


At my boyfriend’s parents’ holiday house, he made a show of bringing my stuff up from the car, leading me to our bedroom. Then, he lay beside me on the bed, and kissed me for a long time, but without any expectation.

Never go on a dig again, he said.

You know you’re always welcome to spend the summer with us, he said. If you want the sun.

I think I’ve had too much sun this holiday, I said, wincing. There was still a slight ache behind my eyes from the previous week’s migraine.


The video is gone now. Maybe she reported it or found a way to delete it. I still search for it sometimes, to see if another copy exists, if someone else uploaded it. Just as a confirmation that she was a real person.


The evening I arrived, he opened a bottle of wine by the pool, where his friends were playing baccarat. We all knew each other slightly, but I was not as comfortable around them as they were with each other. They asked me lots of questions about the dig and the finds and the housemates, particularly the housemates.

When he stood up to get another bottle of wine, I stood too. I’m going to go to bed, I said, I’m exhausted.

There was general agreement that I shouldn’t leave; the night was young.

I’ve been getting up at 6am every morning for the past three weeks, I reminded them. I’m not used to you rich people’s decadence.

I’ll come with you, my boyfriend said, stroking my arm affectionately.

Don’t, I said, pushing my chair in. Enjoy your night out here. I shivered as I walked away, determined to establish my boundary.


Back in the room, I looked through all the books I had brought to Greece and hadn’t touched. I looked out of the window, down onto the terrace where the three of them were still sitting. Bottles and cards and errant flip flops held in the crooks of their toes. It wasn’t so different from my evenings on the porch with her. Those were the only parts of the dig that I’d really enjoyed anyway.

They will never know, I thought. I wasn’t sure what they wouldn’t know, but the idea that there was something comforted me. I took out my phone then, and searched for something to watch.

Emer O'Hanlon

Emer O’Hanlon is from Belfast. Her short fiction has been published by The Honest Ulsterman, and The Cormorant (forthcoming). She was longlisted for the 2021 V.S. Pritchett Short Story Prize. She is currently a PhD candidate in Classics at Trinity College Dublin.

About Diana in a lonely place: I’ve always been drawn to fiction set during the summer, but perhaps that’s only because I grew up in a very cold house. There is something about the possibility of summer, and its potential for hopes, disappointment, and tragedy, which appeals to me. A submissions window long since passed asked for responses to the theme of ‘natural history’, which is not something that comes, well, naturally to me. I needed a human-centred way in, and somehow this ended up coming to me via the Latin poetry I read in college.

A locus amoenus (literally, a deserted place) is a trope in Latin poetry, an idyllic place of natural beauty—a clearing, or a pool, say—which is marked by a danger to humans, particularly women. The best-known myth involving a locus amoenus is the story of Diana and Actaeon, where the hunter Actaeon accidentally catches sight of the goddess Diana bathing, and is punished for it by being turned into a deer and set upon by his own dogs. Like many Greek myths, it’s a vengeful and violent story, but that’s also one of the reasons it’s fascinating.

Online, we are always catching sight of things we’d rather not see. Images are very powerful, and we don’t forget them. Content moderators for social media platforms need regular counselling to deal with the images they see every day, and many of them rarely last six months in the roles. So the connection between being online and that myth seemed clear to me, and I wanted to write something which evoked some of the harshness of a Greek myth. But inevitably, I still often feel guilty for putting these two girls through a hard time.