‘What you’re given’

‘How unusual!’ people she had never met would exclaim with unwarranted fervour. To Suven, her name was no more strange than the hair on her head, but she would always smile gratefully, say ‘thank you,’ and hurry along. She never told them this story, because she had never heard it herself.

There had been a mix-up when her father had gone to register her birth. Her mother, feverish and bed-bound, had written ‘Venus’ on his palm in red ink. But four hours later, when her father reached the town hall, all he could make out were three red creases and a few faded curls; a suggestion of letters that stained his skin from the mound of Jupiter to the mound of the moon.

The serious young man at the desk helped him fill out the form. In the end they came up with a name, miraculously containing all the right letters – just not quite in the right order. After that day, nobody spoke of the mistake.

As it turned out, the name Suven suited her patient disposition so perfectly that Venus would have been a ridiculous pretension. That’s how it was where she grew up: you made do with what you were given, and never stopped to consider how, if the day had been cooler, if they had lived closer to town, if the official had heard of Ancient Rome, or if her father knew how to read, things might have been different.

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