by Serena W. Sorrell

Pierre absently watched long, purple shadows cast by the steam-powered sun; they stretched longer and longer in the sputtering sunset. Pierre rubbed the sand out from his over-weary eyes. Yesterday had been a long night spent in trash. He scoured sewers and alleys while his black pig, BiBi, trotted tirelessly beside. By the first light of the mechanical sun Pierre’s beleaguered efforts were rewarded. Soggy and dripping, and smashed on the sides, Pierre cupped in his hands a heart almost completely broken. He packaged it up and wrapped it away. The most grueling and delicate work still waited at his shop.

               Merely recovering a discarded heart wasn’t enough. No, not at all. And though this one was in terrible shape Pierre had been lucky to find it at all, and largely had BiBi to thanks. This particular heart had been given to lane two’s Miss Perdue, from a one, Mister Lerrare. And soon disregarded. Repairing it would take weeks, and more than just time. But, such was the work for a heartsmith. And, for better or worse, business was never long lacking. The large city was packed full of fools who wore their hearts on their sleeves while they strolled in the park. Pierre was constantly busy, and it was taking its toll.

               The shadows darkened to deep indigo as the sun clinked higher above. Pierre stood, slower than usual, with BiBi ever at his side. She pressed her pink snout to his trouser leg, an encouraging remark from a pig. He smiled and BiBi grunted in glee. His only constant companion and, some said, the reason Pierre remained unwed in the prime of his youth. It was no fault of BiBi’s Pierre remained alone. He had chosen his solace. Had chosen the safety. Being a heartsmith he saw where entrusting your heart to another person led. Even caring too much about any, old thing could fracture a heart, make it hurt, make it sting. The loss of money and youth broke many. For others it was that the stars were too few.

               Pierre had better uses for his heart, though questionable and secret. Yes, for Pierre, BiBi and his craft were enough. So, Pierre returned to his shop of eighth avenue. He heated his furnace, gone cold during the night. He cleared the tables and benches of scraps. And, carefully, so carefully, unwrapped Mister Lerrare’s broken heart. It was dinged and scratched, and a chunk of it missing. Pierre made a soft mould so he could assess the full damages, but it didn’t look good. BiBi pressed her nose to his knee just as the chimes on the door jangled. It was Mister Lerrare, looking hopeless, sullen, and ashen.

               “Ah, Mister Lerrare. Hello.” Pierre dropped a handkerchief over the man’s junky heart.

               “Hello, heartsmith. Any luck with last night’s search?” Mister Lerrare sighed with great melancholy, “I, by myself, searched the parks and riversides where Caroline and I sometimes took a walk.”

               “That’s too bad,” Pierre’s eyebrows pinched. “I haven’t found it yet, but I’m sure I will yet. After all, sir, that’s what you’ve come to me for. Best heartsmith ever there was, in this land, or the next. Guaranteed service.”

               Mister Lerrare said nothing. No smile. No frown. His eyes were blank and they only stared at nothing at all. He didn’t seem soothed by Pierre’s strong guarantee. He didn’t seem anything except wispish and light, like he’d been half erased. Pierre’s heart ached for the poor man. He’d so carelessly put his heart in someone else’s clumsy care. Pierre kept Lerrare’s heart hidden, under the rag; he’d fix it up new, but only in private. Mister Lerrare tipped his hat to Pierre and made promises to come visit next morning.

               As soon as he’d gone Pierre locked his shop door. He was ready to work, ready to repair. Pierre’s methods were secret, utterly unknown. Only his pig, little BiBi, black as an inkwell, knew the heartsmith’s tactics in repairing the cracks and breaks of his clients. And, for very good reason, thought Pierre. Pierre’s hot furnace bellowed and he filled the soft mould with melted metal, all the better to seek all the holes. Upon second inspection Pierre was glad to discover the damage was mostly external. This heart could beat again.

               Using the metal-made model to guide his expert hand, Pierre opened his chest and took a small piece of his own heart. He used gentle heat to bind it to the broken piece, then he smoothed out its dents, its bumps, and its cracks. It was hard work, it made Pierre sweat, and the part of his heart missing still beat, although from tomorrow in Mister Lerrare’s chest. Pierre’s methods were old, no master had taught him; indeed, the modern day heartsmith preferred gears and steam. But, a mechanical heart could not beat on its own, could not feel quite as deep, could not love near so well. Pierre still had plenty of heart to give, and since he lived only for work any lack of love went unnoticed. Over the years he rarely used his own heart, but Lerrare’s sad, soulful brown eyes had encouraged Pierre, who very much wanted to see his customer smile.

               The very next morning, before Pierre had poured his coffee, Mister Lerrare stood waiting, wasting outside in the rain. He had shuffled about town all night once again, searching each shadow and dump for his thrown away heart. Those deep, brown eyes were ringed in dark red. He had not slept, and looked practically dead. With a few heavy steps he stood in the workshop, rain dripped off his coat, down his cheeks like fresh tears, and he looked to Pierre without hope.

               That sad look tugged at Pierre, pulled something inside. He pushed away the feeling for business hours had begun.

               “Mister Lerrare,” Pierre beamed with pride, “you’ll be happy to know I have found your lost heart and repaired it brand new.”

               The deep, brown eyes flickered at this. The news brought Mister Lerrare back to life. So, Pierre showed him the heart, beating and whole. The sight brought a weak smile to Lerrare’s faint lips. With the heartsmith’s hard work the heart returned to its hold. Color flooded Lerrare’s cheeks, he smiled and laughed. His heart had returned, undamaged and clean, only the smallwat of pieces of Pierre’s beat, too, hidden within. Mister Lerrare shook Pierre’s sooty hand with such enthusiasm both men laughed. BiBi spun circles and squealed with delight.

               “Excellent work! I feel a new man!” Remarked the handsome Mister Lerrare.

               “Good to hear and happy to help. Take care of it now, rest it a week or two; remember hearts are fragile and should be handled with care.”

               Although Pierre could not admonish the man too much. Those brown twinkling eyes so happy and full, ready to live life and love every drop. Mister Lerrare paid his account and shook hands again, a grin on his face spread just for Pierre.

               “Thank you, Pierre. Truly.”

               “Just doing my work, Mister Lerrare,” Pierre dropped his eyes, the color of smog, away from those rich, warm eyes.

               “Mister Lerrare? Now, that simply won’t do! You have saved my heart, man. We are friends. Call me Hugo.”

               Pierre had never been asked to call anyone by first name and it was awkward, pinched something inside him, still he smiled, polite and professional. And, not expecting ever to see him again bid, “Farewell, Hugo.”

               Hugo took to the streets with a jaunty, light step. No shadow of gloom stirred in his wake. No clue that morning he’d been only a wraith. Pierre watched the man disappear, tipping his hat at strangers and making them smile; Pierre watched until Hugo was long out of sight. He had more hearts to repair, but light dings and dents. None of them so broken as that of the former Mister Lerrare’s. So, for the rest of the day Pierre hammered and pittered, repaired hearts by the plenty. In a city so large, and a world so cruel, there was never wont for more broken-hearted.

               Weeks went by, Pierre’s business steady as ever. Months passed still, and business was good. It was quite, very depressing. If not for BiBi and her constant love by his side Pierre was doubtless he’d have lost belief in the precarious emotion so many seemed to chase. Love. Love was dangerous. Love was blind. Love came with claws and stingers. And, sometimes was a one-way transaction. No, Pierre would not be so foolish as to love. For him, the love of his pet pig was enough.

               Pierre was dousing the flames after another day’s work. His furnace had burned long and he was very much wearied to go home to bed. The chimes rang to his shop and, beleaguered, Pierre turned. Hugo stood there, stooped there, slumped even. He was in shambles, an utter disaster. By far ten times worse than the first time Pierre had laid eyes on the man. Pierre gasped, unaware, and rushed to his friend’s side. BiBi too, trotted along.

               “Hugo, what’s happened? Did something go wrong. My repairs should have lasted.”

               “Oh. No,” Hugo gave a sigh, “I did something very dumb.”

               “Oh.” Pierre could guess by the listless lack of joy in those drowning, tearful brown eyes.

               “I thought it’d be different this time, Pierre. He was such a nice gent. We’d been schoolmates since we’d been ten. Perhaps, I knew him too well, or he me. Whatever it was it has ended now.”

               “I see.”

               “If I may hire your services again, Pierre. You’re the finest heartsmith ever was and I’ll never find better.”

               “Hugo, I…”

               “No fear! I have the heart here. He was kind enough to return it at least.”

               It was a start. No late night searches. Hugo took out a cloth folded over four times and opened each fold. Pierre stared at the thing. It was worse than he feared. Holes riddled the heart like a tooth with too many cavities. He could fix it, but it would take time. Hugo waited in silence for the prognosis.

               “I can fix it.”

               “Oh, thank you!”

               “It will take me a week.”

               “So long?”

               “Yes, I’m afraid it’s quite bad.”

               Hugo nodded, a tear traced along his nose and dropped from his chin, “Yes, I loved him.”

               Pierre gathered the heart with the utmost of care, and ushered broken Hugo out the door. Hugo, in turn, promised to come again in seven nights. The door closed and curtained Pierre turned back to where the broken heart waited. Pierre could work his craft, turn his magick. Dings and dents were one thing, but this was quite another. The fire was breathed to life again. He’d begin right away. A harder mould this time. Better to see all the damage inside. Pierre would mold it stronger, make it resilient, but first to fill all those holes.

               BiBi pawed at his foot. A glum look in her eye. Pierre opened his chest and took away half of his heart. The damage on Hugo’s was extensive and it required repairs most intensive. Pierre whispered to his work, begged it to take in the pieces of hard heart, to make Hugo’s stronger, for Pierre couldn’t bear to see his friend’s heart break again. It took all night, and he worked into dawn. The shop stayed closed the next two days while Pierre toiled without a wink. At last on the fourth day he finished at last. The heart was good. The cracks weren’t so noticeable. It would hold sturdy.

               Pierre slept the next three days and woke with a start with Hugo rapping and tapping on the door. When Pierre presented the re-repaired heart Hugo had it installed right at once. A miracle! It beat and thumped as good as it ever had. So happy was he Hugo lifted Pierre with a hug. He paid Pierre double for all of the trouble, and promised, double-promised to be more careful and to steer clear away from falling in love.

               But not three weeks passed before Hugo shuffled into the shop’s door. He barely made it to Pierre’s messy work bench before he collapsed, sobbing and wailing, Pierre couldn’t make out a word. Only that it hurt so much more than it ever had before. And, Hugo was doomed never to love or be loved. Hugo gave his heart to any who asked and never asked in return. He let people take until his heart broke. Pierre couldn’t help grimace at the cruelties love had wrought on his dear, friend. Hugo took out the flimsy rag and flung down the pieces. This time it went beyond bad. There was hardly anything here. Barely a scrap. Pierre would have to create it anew.

               “A month, and not a day sooner.”

               “That long?”

               “Hugo, look at the thing. It’s a heart only in name, not in shape.”

               “Yes, you’re right. You always have my best interests, dearest Pierre.”

               Pierre nodded and squeezed Hugo’s icy hand tight. Could the man truly survive without a heart for thirty-one days? Pierre would hurry, but he would not cut corners. He’d make Hugo’s heart beautiful once again. He helped Hugo to his feet and walked him to the door. Pierre kissed Hugo’s forehead and told him not to fret, and to take lots of rest. When the door closed behind Pierre looked back at the table, Hugo’s broken heart scattered like dice thrown to gamble. He pressed a thumb and a finger against his closed eyes. He knew what he’d do, but it wouldn’t be pleasant. BiBi knew too, and did not approve, which she made known by ramming her head against Pierre’s leg. At last taking notice, with tears in his eyes.

               “I know, BiBi! But what can I do? He loves too much, and receives none in return! He gives them his all, and gets nothing to fill up his heart. I can’t bear to see him so. I can’t bear to see his heart broken once more.”

               BiBi was quiet when Pierre opened his chest. He took out his heart, every last piece. It took hours of sweat. It took ounces of blood. It took toil of fire and steel, magick and sweet words to coax Pierre’s heart to Hugo’s. Day after day, and night after night, Pierre barely slept always working on the heart he liked best. He’d have to quit being a heartsmith after this, his final repair. The once and only re-re-repair. But, when it was done. Oh, how beautiful it was. It was strong and good, and come pre-filled with all of Pierre’s love for Hugo.

               On the thirty-first day Hugo appeared. His knock at the door sounded like a raindrop. Pierre did his best to remember how to smile, he tried to recall the feelings he’d had and act perfectly natural. He presented the heart, his final and greatest masterpiece of art and love. Hugo gasped at its perfection. When it went in his chest it was snug, a perfect fit. Pierre had done his work well and Hugo praised the job with a warm hug and a kiss to the cheek. Pierre simply smiled, an action he faked. He’d forgotten his real smile, lost it with the last bit of his heart.

               Hugo paid Pierre and turned to the door.

               And stopped.

               Hugo turned and looked at Pierre.

               “Pierre.”

               “Yes?”

               “No speech?”

               “Only that love hurts more than you think.”

               “Too true, my dearest friend. I have learned my lesson.” He laughed and his happy, brown eyes moved nothing inside Pierre. “The next time I give my heart to someone it will be only the purest love that stirs me to give it up.”

               “Yes, do that.”

               And Pierre said his final farewell to Hugo Lerrare.

               The following days felt like a veil had been draped over the world for Pierre. He shuffled and muffled about in his workshop. Packed away boxes and prepared to move very, very far. BiBi did her best. She sent all the love a pig could toward Pierre. It kept him moving at least. Without BiBi he would have already been gathering dust. Box after box, tools and more tools, all of it he’d never use again for a heartless man could never mend hearts.

               A knock at the door, incessant and loud. Pierre wrapped old newspaper around his trusty bellows. The knock came again, and hand shook the locked handle hard. Pierre pressed the bellows to the side of a box, nestled beside the tongs. BiBi nudged him and pushed him, loving him to make him look up. At last Pierre saw his black pig, always loyal and beside him. He looked to the tired door and stood on his tired feet. It opened so slow, even turning the key seemed to consume an eternity. At last it opened, only a sliver, and inside burst Hugo. His face was red and tears streamed down his cheeks. He panted for air and heaved each breath.

               “Pierre! I just heard you’re closing up shop!”

               “Yes.”

               “Yes? That’s all? Just yes?”

               “That’s right.”

               “Why? Surely there are more who could use your know how, your skill, your craft. Oh, Pierre, you can’t go! You simply can’t leave me!”

               Pierre looked into the brown eyes with his eyes of cold gray.

               “Oh, Pierre. What have you done?”

               “I fixed the last heart I will fix. I can repair no more without one of my own.”

               Hugo crossed his hands over his chest. He felt the two hearts inside, beating as one. Not once had he noticed how much had been given. Hugo had never asked, never begged Pierre for his heart. Pierre had only silently given, and given, and given. Hugo cupped his warm hands to Pierre’s cold face. Hugo kissed him with warm lips, and gave him warm breath. Hugo opened Pierre’s chest and opened his own. He removed the perfect heart, full of unspoken love, afraid to be hurt. Pierre was afraid of the pain that came with a broken heart. He’d seen so many he had given away his own without even a word or a hint.

               “Pierre, come show me to halve this heart. I don’t know how hearts work without you telling me how. I need this last thing before you leave me.”

               “It’s simple. You only make a cut here, and a small twist there, and you have two halves.”

               With a shaking hand Hugo did as he was instructed. Pierre’s voice cold and clinical, all the warmth gone. Hugo had to show Pierre the warmth of love. He still had words for Pierre. And, now he had half their mingled heart for them both. Hugo locked half in his chest, and ever so gently, placed the mate in Pierre’s emptiness. It filled him up. Not just the pieces of his own heart returned, but there were remnants still of all of Hugo’s love. Pierre gasped, he stumbled, he tripped, and grabbed the edge of the table. Hugo’s love for Pierre consumed him. Hugo loved him more than any other.

               “I love you, Pierre.”

               “It’s so much. I can scarcely breathe.”

               “Yes.”

               “I gave you my heart. I used every bit of it up.”

               “Yes.”

               “All because I loved you. I loved your honesty and idiocy. I loved how you loved with everything and all you had. And now, I love you again.”

               Pierre took up Hugo in a strong, warm embrace. He held Hugo close, their chests beat in sync with one another. A sweeter kiss the heartsmith never knew. Except the one after. And the one after that. And, the thousands more that followed. And it soon was discovered that a heartsmith in love needs not sacrifice anything at all in order to mend a broken heart. He only need remind the heart how to love with a few words, and a mallet for the extra tough dents. And, forever beside him was Hugo Lerrare and BiBi, the pig.

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