ORESTES: Where have I seen you before?
MOIRA: In a dream.
ORESTES: A thousand years ago.
— Euripides, Orestes
Lark Lennox is no stranger to love. Growing up in the apartment above her family's flower shop, she knows love and all the forms it takes—at least, the forms it takes that can be bought and sold, or better yet ordered in by her father to be sold downstairs. Chocolates shaped like hearts, bouquets wrapped delicately with ribbon, gold-foil confessions of love printed onto thick, premium cardstock. She had been weaned on that kind of love, the Hollywood kind, the kind that could fit into the palm of her hand or the hour-and-a-half runtime of her favourite romantic comedy.
But those movies, those stories—When Harry Met Sally..., Bridget Jones' Diary, Notting Hill—though they were oversaturated with love, overfilled with it, overflowing, they had nothing on what Lark's five foot four frame could contain. What her soul could stomach. What her heart could take.
Once, her father had told her that a person was made of pieces. With his wife gone—for a few months first and now, as he was coming to accept, forever—he had taken up the task of preparing Lark's snacks for figure skating practice. He was in the kitchen, paring off slices from a bright, round orange and tossing them into a container to be put in the refrigerator so they could be chilled overnight. Lark's attention darted between his words and his knife, both glinting in the afternoon light that filtered in from the tiny window in their kitchen. She sat across the counter from him, listening intently as she snatched away pieces of fruit.
People are made of pieces, Lee Lennox had said. We take these pieces from other people.
Lark nodded solemnly in agreement. With her mouth full of stolen orange slices, she was unable to talk. Lee took advantage of her silence, continuing on as he sliced away. We take these pieces and fit them together to form ourselves.
Lark grinned an orange rind smile at her father before peeling back the citrus skin so she could reply. Like a jigsaw puzzle.
Exactly, Birdie. Like a jigsaw puzzle. We're making a picture.
What does the picture look like? Lark reached for another slice, but her father gently swatted her away with his free hand; at this rate, she'd show up to practice empty-handed.
It looks like whatever you want, Lark. Giving in, Lee snuck his daughter another piece. It can be whatever you want.
As she grew older, Lark started to see it as less of a jigsaw puzzle and more of a broken mirror; from nothing but memory she was reconstructing an image of herself, picking through shards of glass and hoping she wouldn't cut herself upon them. The only mark of her progress was whether the image resembled her, though between all the shattered pieces, the ragged edges and refractory light, she couldn't quite tell. Her father had probably meant something different; he had probably meant that people collected the best parts of others, every human being a tourist in someone else's life, coming and going with nothing but lessons and learned consequences on their backs.
But Lark's collection was a puzzle of a different kind; the puzzle of love, its pieces comprising heartbreak and hurt. The first person to ever break her heart was her mother. The second; her father, who retreated into himself when he lost his wife. Lark's metahuman abilities did not manifest until she was twelve years old, but she had always been intuitive, had always been willing to carry the weight of others—which might as well have been the weight of the world—on her shoulders. That was her curse, prophesied long before it was cast.
Her first heartbreak was her first and her second and her third and her fourth—on and on and on, ad infinitum. She felt anything and everything, and she felt it all at once: the absence of her mother, as well as the permanence of her memory. Her brothers' grief, as well as their joy. Her father's pain, as well as his unwillingness to let his hurt harm his children. It was his own kind of superpower, Lee Lennox's ability to take his pain and turn it into something beautiful; to take his emotions and make them tangible, make them into art that took the form of floral arrangements, bouquets and blooms of bursting colour that brightened the apartment and the shop nestled below it more than the fading memory of the Lennox family matriarch could. To Lark, her father's puzzle was made of petals. Hers, glass, was just as delicate—but twice as deadly.
She had so many sharp edges. So many teeth.
Lark Lennox is no stranger to love. But love, she believes, is a stranger to her: a beautiful one, long-limbed and sun-kissed, red-haired and green-eyed. She has been dreaming of him since she was a child—though he is her destiny, he has always been indefinite, ever since she could remember; like a photograph taken with shaky hands, he is soft at the edges, hazy.
But he is hers. And she is his.
So many of the movies she watches begin with meet-cutes. Accidental encounters, chance meetings of fate—at least, that is what the movie wants you to believe. Lark knows better; every second of that meeting is scripted, every moment has already been written. Every smile shared, every glance exchanged, is fated. The moment Harry met Sally, it was already love. Bridget and Mark. Anna and Thacker. Lark could go on. The moment they appeared onscreen, it has only been a matter of time, a matter of the minutes between the opening title to the complication to the climax to the conclusion. You can rewind as much as you'd like, return to the beginning as many times as you want. It does not change their story. It does not change their fate.
This was always going to happen.
In this way, Lark supposes, love is like tragedy. Inevitable and inescapable—but, in her expert opinion, why would you want to escape it? Why would you want to run?
By the time Lark is twenty-two years old, she has had a litany of lovers and a litany of heartbreaks to match. Her first heartbreak is her second and her third and her fourth, on and on and on, into infinity and whatever lies beyond it. She is no stranger to love, though love remains a stranger to her.
All the times she has dreamt him, all the times she has drawn him messily from memory, he is always on his way out. The back of his head she knows as well as the back of her hand; he is a blur of red, like a stoplight in a storm, ill-defined yet distinct, bright but unfocused. Her favourite version of him is a figure in a painting, a smear of red across a tar-black landscape, an endless, starless void. Even in this image, he is halfway gone, the sharpness of his outline blunted as it fades into the dark. Why he was always leaving, Lark did not know. Why he never stayed—she did not know that, either.
But he would not be a stranger for long. He had found her before; he would find her again. Lark cannot explain how she knows this—how she knows him—but there is no doubt in her mind: this is no meet-cute. This is no accident. This is not up to chance.
This is fate.
This was always going to happen.
This is going to happen.
It is only a matter of time.