Lark is the last child to get to use the bathroom, the privilege of being the youngest and easiest to push around. She’s been dancing cross-legged all morning, waiting for one of her older siblings to take mercy on her. The relief at finally being able to use the facilities is unquantifiable. But when she flushes the toilet, it begins to overflow.
"Poop," she mutters to herself. This is the fourth time this week this has happened to her.
Downstairs, Luke is trying to print an essay he wrote for history class. The computer won’t turn on, though--the fans inside whir asthmatically before smoke begins to pour out.
“Mom,” Luke whines, “the computer is broken!”
“What did you do to it,” Luna yells back from the kitchen.
“Nothing. I just tried to turn it on but it’s not working,” Luke thinks for a moment, considering how he can shift blame before his mother snaps, “I think Lark used it last.”
Lark scowls at her mother’s obviously irate voice. She had been writing an email to her grandmother the night before when the computer began to spark, and then it smelled like burning rubber. She quickly pushed the power button and ran out of the room, leaving the inevitable fire hazard for the next sucker who turns it on. She doesn’t know why everything seems to break whenever she uses it, and she doesn’t really care to find out. She’s just tired of getting in trouble for breaking things.
Somehow all of the children make it out of the house clean, clothed, and fed, leaving Quentin and Luna alone to enjoy some well-deserved peace and quiet.
The two are silent as the partake in their hobbies--Quentin tends to his garden as Luna paints, her arms relaxed as she slowly and lightly brushes paint across the canvas. As she blots out the white background, she feels the stress leaving her body.
And then she layers a few angry stokes on her painting when she remembers how much it’s going to cost to get both the toilet and the computer fixed.
Quentin, sensing his wife’s anxiety, gently pulls her away from her painting.
“Yes--mostly. I’m just annoyed that I’ll have to call the repairwoman again. Lark breaks something every other day. It’s ridiculous. And expensive.”
He pulls her in for an embrace, then a gentle kiss.
“We’re doing okay,” it’s half statement, half question. They are doing okay--Quentin has found a niche career as a movie composer, Luna has published over a dozen novels, and the twins are on the honor roll. Their house is clean and paid off, and they always have food in the fridge. It’s a stark contrast from their humble beginnings in Aurora Skies.
“We are,” she agrees, “I just--worry. Always.”
Luna hesitates for a moment, thinking about what to say next. She worries about Lark in particular. Lydia and Luke have always excelled at school. And they’re so responsible. But Lark isn’t doing as well. She’s not lagging--she’s just, well, average. Luna remembers that when Lark was a toddler, she spent less time working on her skills in favor of helping the twins and working on her writing. Guilt eats at her. It’s her fault that Lark isn’t thriving like her other children.
But she says none of that. “I’m glad my mom went home early,” she admits, “she was stressing me out.”
The house is empty except for them, so what comes next is inevitable. And private, of course.
It’s a cacophony whenever the kids arrive home from school, and today is no different. They burst through the door, chattering and yelling, and the school bus honks before the driver pulls off.
“Homework,” Luna commands her children before the even finish putting down their backpacks
“But mom,” Lark whines, “we just got home!”
“If ifs and buts were berries and nuts, we’d all have a merry Snowflake Day,” Luna snaps back, “so get to work.”
Lark grumbles as she pulls her homework out of her backpack and trudges to the table, but she doesn’t dare question her mother’s folksy justification. At least she only has math homework tonight. Unfortunately she’s terrible at math..
“I don’t understand how long division works,” Lark complains as she scribbles on her homework.
“It’s not hard,” Lydia scoffs, “tell me the problem and I’ll solve it for you. Then you’ll know how to do it.”
“2229 divided by four.”
Lydia blinks, her brain whirring. “557.25,” she answers without even working it out on paper.
“How did you figure that out so quickly?!”
“Yeah, it wasn’t that hard,” Luke adds. He came to the same though he had to solve the problem on a piece of scrap paper.
“I’m not doing your homework for you,” Lydia frowns, “just think and you’ll figure it out.”
Lark’s heart sinks. She must not be very good at thinking, because it takes her forever to cobble together the answers to her ten homework questions.
By the time Lark is finished, the rest of the family has moved on to their various hobbies. Luna finishes up a painting while Lydia and Quentin play chess. True to Luke’s earlier fears, his twin sister has decided that she would like to overthrow him as president of the chess club. She’s been practicing for the past few days with Quentin, who is more than happy to teach her as much as he knows about chess. Unfortunately, that isn’t much.
Even a great chess master like probably couldn’t help Lydia. Despite her natural genius, she just isn’t that creative of a thinker. Each decision is made based on the current circumstances, not the potential outcome that her action could create. Luke might just be able to retain his presidency.
Thus, he opts to play a racing game. Lark is more than happy to join him when she finally finishes her homework.
Like everything else in her life, Lark isn’t particularly good at video games. But she has fun, and she’s a ruthless competitor. As Lark and Luke race their polygonal cars around the digital racetrack, she whoops and hollers, slinging taunts at her brother.
“You’ll never catch me,” she grins, “eat my dust, sucker!”
“Lark, I just lapped you. It only looks like you’re ahead of me because you’re still on the first lap.”
“Whatever. Your mother is a llama.”
“...she’s your mother too, dummy.”
The insults are mild and punctuated with playful laughter. Lark feels stupid anytime she talks to her sister, but Luke is so good natured that she feels at ease around him, even when he's gently insulting her.
Luna listens to her children bicker while she cooks dinner. As she cuts the vegetables for a salad, she thinks. She received a letter today from the kids’ school. The twins are aging up soon, and the school wants Luna and Quentin’s permission to place them in advanced courses that will give the twins the opportunity to earn college credit. It seems silly to ask for permission for something like this--of course they belong in these classes. They deserve the opportunity to show their potential.
Luna wants her youngest daughter to have the same opportunity, but Lark’s grades have been so low that it doesn’t seem possible. But she doesn’t want to give up hope. Maybe Lark just needs a little push.
“But I’m having fun playing with Luke.”
“Luke and Lydia are in an gifted and talented reading class. Wouldn’t you like to be in a GT reading class?”
“...why? That sounds boring.”
“Lark, just turn off the game and pick up a book,” Luna snaps. Quentin flinches at his wife’s harsh tone, but he doesn’t say anything.
“Fine,” Lark rolls her eyes and pushes the power button on the controller. The controller sparks a little, and smoke begins to seep out of it. She pretends not to notice she she tosses it on the side table.
Lark selects a book about mummies. She prefers fairy tales--she feels drawn to stories about changelings, fairy princesses, and dashing mortal heroes. This book, however, is just about gross mummies and their dusty canopic jars and dumb curses.
“This sucks,” she mutters to herself. But the more she reads, the more enthralled she becomes. It might not have a fairy court or magical animals or anything, but Egyptian mythology is bizarre enough to entertain her. The only thing that would make this better is if someone else read it to her so she could just curl up and relax.
Lark gets halfway through the book before she feels her eyelids start to get heavier. She abandons the book for another day so she can get ready for bed--despite being a sporadic reader, she always finishes books. She just has to know how the end.
Lark yawns as she she climbs into bed, the sheets cool from the spring air. Right before she drops off to sleep, she wonders if her mother loves Luke and Lydia more than she loves her. But sleep overtakes her before she can consider the worry in detail. She’ll forget about it in the morning--it’s the kind of thought that only exists in anxious states, like the precipice of sleep.Sheba jumps up on the bed and curls up next to Lark. She looks at the child with her intelligent eyes and whimpers. Lark, unconscious and human, obviously can’t understand what her beloved dog is telling her: “you are perfect, Special Human.”