The name staining the skin just above Lyra’s left breast, just above her heart, was something she was always told she show off and be proud of, but she only revered it as a blemish that needed to be removed. Ever since the elegant cursive script bloomed on her skin at age thirteen she has done everything she could to conceal it from plastering heavy cover up cream and makeup to the area and even taking the measure of throwing out every last top cut low enough to exhibit the name. Lyra believed she should be the one to choose who she was to love, if there was anyone out there for her at all. She did not want to be tied down to someone she does not know or may never even meet just because their name is branded on her person against her will. When her friends started to excitedly proclaim the names of their soulmates, Lyra would attempt to distance herself from the conversations to avoid having to divulge even a sliver of her soulmate’s identity.
Though it was not illegal, the act of getting your soulmate’s name covered permanently was considered to be one of the most universal taboos, but Lyra had made the decision long ago. The name was being covered and there was not one person who could stop her from doing it.
The tattoo parlor was decent size and appeared very orderly. Lyra expected something different upon entering the building like closed off, dark, and full of burly, biker sorts of patrons, but the space was clean, very open with the large display window in the front, and oddly welcoming. Works of amazing art covered the pale blue walls and a television playing the original Star Trek show was the only sound in the place other than the low buzz of tattoos guns at work. Lyra’s nerves calmed after observing the area, and realizing there was nothing to be nervous about, but she had not yet taken notice of the man watching her from the front desk placed in the middle of the waiting area. He let her look around a moment longer before clearing his throat to catch her attention. Realizing she had been so obviously spaced out, Lyra’s face went red with embarrassment as she approached the counter.
“Welcome to Metal Moon, what can I do for you today?” The man, covered in tattoos and bright blue metal rings in both his eyebrow and lip, gave her a warm smile as to ease her. Noticing the people milling around in the wait area, Lyra leaned in.
“I’m here to get something covered up,” Lyra said in a near whisper.
“And what is it your getting covered?” The man leaned in closer and matched her hushed tone, keeping their conversation from the mother and daughter sitting on one of the black leather couches. Lyra glanced out the corner of her eye to make sure they were ignoring her before actually telling him.
“A name,” she whispered. The man pulled back and nodded, his ruffled brown hair bouncing about in his hazel eyes. He rummaged through a drawer full of paperwork and pulled out a packet of forms, secured them on a clipboard, and handed them to her. As she moved to grab them, he pulled back with a smirk on his lips.
“You’re over eighteen, right?” Lyra dug into back pocket to produce her I.D. and birth certificate. He handed over the clipboard. She proceeded to fill out the necessary areas as the man explained standard information about the proper care and cleaning of a first tattoo. He came to the end of his speech and she had finished the forms.
“I just need your birth certificate to copy,” she handed it over eagerly, “and you can go ahead into room 3 and settle in.” Lyra nodded, muttering a thank you, then headed for the room. He parted from the front to the back room to run her papers through the copier, but halted in his tracks as his eyes landed on the name scribbled on the certificate. Lyra. It can’t be the right girl, he thought in a sudden panic. She could not be the girl whose name was printed above his heart, the girl who he was destine to be with. She can't be the girl he has had on his mind since thirteen, now coming to have what may very well be his name crossed out for good.
“Cole, I need more razors,” Cole’s head shot up from the document to see his co-worker, Sebastian , leaning in the door frame of the back office. Cole only stared at him, not having heard Sebastian’s request. Sebastian raised an eyebrow.
“You okay?” He asked slowly. Cole looked at Seb and then back at the document.
"How many girls have you met with the name ‘Lyra’?” Cole asked as he found his voice again among the shock clouding his mind.
“Zero. Why?” Cole held the birth certificate out for his friend to look over. Sebastian took it cautiously, but came to realize what this was all about. The cheek splitting smile Sebastian was so infamous for made an appearance. He misread the situation that love-sick Cole finally found his soulmate.
Sebastian and Cole attended the same secondary school, making fast friends as they bonded over music, video games, and food. They knew the names of each other's soulmates and had often shared their thoughts about how they would look, act, sound, and what life would be like with them. Cole had been the sappy, romantic one of the two boys hoping that him and his soulmate would meet and instantly know they were meant for each other. They would get married and have two kids, two boys preferably, and live happily ever after. He knew it wouldn’t work exactly like that, but he held to that daydream. In a matter of a few minutes that dream was slipping away rapidly and there was no way Cole could figure how to catch it again.
“This amazing! You’ve been waiting so long and now you found her! Is she hot?” Sebastian joked. Cole didn’t answer rather shot him a stern grimace. Cole sighed heavily as his head dropped into his hands.
“She’s here to get the name covered.”
“I’ve only covered one other name, but the girl died in a freak accident. He didn’t want a reminder of her,” Cole blabbered on about the how the man strode into the shop, demanding her name be covered and how he was stone faced through the whole thing. It broke Cole's heart to know someone would have to live without his true significant other.
“So, why are you my second?” His words held a bit of venom, but he knew he couldn’t hold a grudge against her since she didn’t know her soulmate was currently preparing to ink over his own name.
“Bit personal, don’tcha think?” Cole stuttered an apology and Lyra laughed. God, he thought, her laugh is amazing. He wondered if it would grace his ears again after today.
“I’m kidding,” she said finally, “but I don’t some random name dictating who I end up with if I even want to be with someone.” It made sense to Cole and he knew a lot of people who had the same thoughts on the whole soulmate thing. His other best friend, Roman, had felt the same shame obvious in Lyra when the name ‘cursed his skin’ as he put it. Roman wanted to control his own destiny which drove him to stealing his cousin’s tattoo gun and drunkenly scribble out the name on his chest. From that point on Roman decided who he was with, but it wasn’t anything romantic or long term as Cole hoped to have with his soulmate, rather Roman used the people he found to satisfy his physical wants then tossed them away. That is not how Cole wanted to live as he had too much love for the person he was bound to be with, but his hopes were slowly being stolen bit by bit as he got ready to finally face the name that may or may not be his on Lyra’s skin.
Cole turned to Lyra who was gazing at him with anxiousness and excitement in her eyes. The thought, if only for a split second, of telling her it was her name splayed out on his heart crossed his mind. It was regarded as nothing more than a passing thought as he settled onto the swivel stool, pushing himself closer to her. He had no right to try and change her mind, though his heart and his head were screaming at him to show her.
“I’m gonna need you to, um, remove y-your top,” he stuttered. Her face dropped then bloomed in a deep red shade of blush. He considered turning his head to give her privacy, but realized it would be her practically naked chest that he would be looking at for god knows how long, so he just tried to avert his gaze to make it less awkward as she peeled the material from her torso. When he glanced back her Cole though it heart might actually burst from the cavity of his chest with how wildly it was beating. Sandy blonde hair framed her fame in tousled waves and her eyes were timid. Roman may need to take this one, he thought. Cole felt he may faint from the forceful blow her beauty was delivering, but he shook it off and tried to put on a professional face.
“Alright, you ready?” Lyra nodded and settled her back into the leather chair. Cole pulled up closer with an antiseptic wipe to clean the skin, but the moment his gaze landed on the space of her chest he would be working on his stomach dropped into the deepest part of his stomach. In the typical dainty script was the name. Cole.