She was born with a sense of bravado, a strawberry birthmark over her right eye and all the opulence of the earth's kingdom up to the hilt in hock. She was born to a mother in mourning, born on the very day her granny was to be cremated. The air was bitter, disastrous, framed with snow. The day had lost its focus, the birds refused to sing, and the edge of her granny's coffin was thick with lint, which so distracted her grieving mother she could barely think of anything else.
It was then that she decided that the time to be born was upon her, and she pushed herself into the gaping world in a whoosh of water, to the scent of lilies and the astonished weeping of the family. Like a fish in a net she looked up at the faces of an unfamiliar world.
'Truth, to be understood, must first be believed.' her mother would say later when she told Lena the story of her birth: 'You were wrapped in an ostrich-feather cape', which Lena thought must have prickled, though she would have looked magical. She pictured herself in a black feather nest, shadowed by grief, held in the shallow crook of her father's arm, while the congregation felt both blessed and cheated and commented on the lack or surfeit of taste.
She imagined him looking down at the tomato stain on her brand new face and planting a kiss there, for the wisdom and sheer bravado it took to be born.