I'm supposed to meet my "soulmate" in four minutes.
The timer on my wrist ticks, each second pulling me closer and each second fashioning another knot in my stomach. I can't hear the seconds tick away but I can feel them. My legs bounce, my hands shake, and the cotton of my shirt sticks to my spine from the thin layer of sweat covering every inch of my body. I shouldn't be this nervous. Whoever they are, they'll be stuck with me in three minutes and fifty-one seconds regardless of how I look.
I woke up this morning knowing today would be the day. Nineteen years, seven months and twenty-one days, this is finally where the waiting stops. Don't get me wrong, it could be worse. My parents had to wait until they were thirty-four and thirty-seven. But that doesn't mean the waiting was any better.
Two minutes and forty-seven seconds.
Mom called me this morning, the first thing she asked me was if I was ready. No, I was absolutely not ready, but I told her I was. I could see her shaking her head as her laugh filtered through the speaker.
"No you're not," she said, "nobody's ever ready. You'll be alright though. It's not a voluntary thing. Your heart'll take care of everything."
I rolled my eyes at her then but as the time started dwindling, I understand what she meant. After getting up much too early, wanting to get this day over with, and sitting around for what felt like an eternity, something finally told me what to do. Not so much as told me but pulled me. Pulled me out of my apartment, into my car, and to the pier. Some mysterious, soulmate-connecting force sat me down on a bench facing the water (how romantic) and told me to wait. So I'm waiting.
One minute and nineteen seconds.
Goosebumps rise on my arms, little mountains of nerves all over my body. I really thought this whole thing would be different. I was never the type to dwell on the whole "soulmate" thing. Sure, I wondered what they'd be like. What kind of person they are, what kind of things they liked, what would make them happiest in life. But the expectations were always something I tried to keep at bay. I wonder if they did the same.
Deep breaths, I try to calm the quakes in my fingers. It's gonna be fine. Everything is going to be fine. My hair sticks to my neck, it feels like it's strangling me. I pull it to one side to keep it from blowing everywhere. Closing my eyes, I try to enjoy the last seconds of my life before it inevitably changes forever. My heart beats everywhere, all the way down my arms and legs, through the tips of my fingers and toes.
Warmth blooms in my chest, the nerves plaguing my body only seconds ago wash away. This is it, wow, this is it.
I open my eyes as my body moves to stand, it's the same pulling as this morning, only this time its strength is incredible.
I crane my neck, trying to see through the people crowding the pier, trying to see if somebody else is being pulled the way I am.
All the air drains from my lungs, I can't see anybody. What if I don't have a soulmate? Is that possible?
Thin fingers grasp my wrist lightly. Warm waves of electricity shoot through my body from the contact. The hand spins me around, the movement revealing a thin white screen blinking 0:00:00. I can breathe again.
Electricity buzzes beneath the surface of my skin, a light smile forms on my face. For something I had been dreading, this isn't nearly as bad as I had imagined.
"Um, excuse me." The softness in his voice surprises me. "You wouldn't happen to have somebody to meet right now would you?"
Lifting my face up to meet his, which is much higher than I'd expected it to be, I'm met with the most beautiful brown eyes I've ever seen. They're dark as coffee, but little golden flecks of honey reflect in the sunlight. My heart thrums against my ribs. His cheeks are pink, freckles the color of cinnamon sprinkle his nose.
"I am," are the only words I can force out of my mouth. His smile deepens, revealing a-little-crooked white teeth. His fingers are still wrapped around my wrist, their contact continuing to send soft waves up my arm.
"I don't really know where to start," he chuckles, "I'm Ra…"
His expression fades. His fingers fall from my wrist. Those brown eyes I'd been so enthralled with seconds ago vanish back into his head, replaced with only white. The tall form in front of me seems to crumble, his spine folding forward as his knees give out. He's on the ground in front of me in one beat of my heart, limbs folding in awkward angles as his body is sprawled onto the boards that make up the pier. My body is frozen, limbs refusing to cooperate. All the thoughts in my head come to a screeching halt leaving only silence in their wake. Once again, I'm without the air my lungs need so badly to function, my stomach instantly squeezed by some invisible fist. No.
People begin to notice us, his physically broken form, and my mentally broken one. They crowd around us, people kneeling around his head after they've gotten him on his back, more people in my face, asking me what happened. Hands grasp my arms, their fingers constricting and sharp. They're so much less gentle than he was. They're shaking me, really violently shaking me, finally breaking my stare from the boy who was supposed to become my heart.
"Miss," they shake me, "Miss, what happened?" More shaking. "Do you know this man? What happened?" The woman holding my right arm turns my wrist over, displaying the still-blinking timer there. "Oh no," she says.
Her expression finally breaks the stillness that had begun to suffocate me. No. Oh no, no, no. He was supposed to be mine. The people hovering over him begin CPR, pounding against his chest on the outside, much like my heart is doing on my inside. I collapse to his feet, trying to push my way up toward his head.
"Somebody call 911, somebody call an ambulance," they're all screaming. The pounding on his chest continues, the warmth that once filled my chest is filled with frigid panic. Tears cloud my vision, no amount of blinking can keep them from streaming down my face. My hands claw at his, willing them to wrap around me as they did for only minutes before.
Sirens cut through the air, sounding above all the voices still shouting at me for answers. They ask if I know his name if I knew what happened if there's somebody I should call to meet us at the hospital. The ambulance drives right up onto the dock, lights flashing but the sirens silenced. They load him onto a stretcher, his eyes still open and white. The hands push me up into the back and the paramedic tells me to sit in the seat beside the bed. The chest compressions start again, the doors slam behind us and we're launched forward. The force of it causes his hand to fall limply out to me, my fingers wrap around it but none of the warmth it once had is there beneath his skin. The coldness shocks me. Sobs rip through my chest as a realize what this might mean, they rack my body relentlessly, I can't catch my breath. No no no no no.
We sirens shut off as we grind to a halt, the paramedic opens the doors and there is a sea of people waiting to help. I'm dragged along as they push the gurney down and out of the truck, my fingers still entwined with his cold ones. They push me along as the people at the pier had until we run through a set of double doors. A nurse encases me from behind, working quickly to pry his hand from my grasp and remove me from his side.
"Ma'am, who do we need to call?" She asks.
I can't answer her question. I don't even know his name. I don't know him at all.
"He… he's supposed to be my soulmate."
His name was Rayleigh. Rayleigh Thomas Williamson. He was 21. And he died from sudden cardiac arrest caused by a murmur he didn't even know he had.
I lay in bed for long after my eyes open in the morning now. Probably too long if there were anybody else here. But there isn't, its just me and I don't have anything to get up for. So I don't. I stare up at the ceiling and wonder what it would've sounded like if my name ever came through his lips. Or what it would've sounded like to hear him say his name for that matter, because I don't fucking know what it would sound like.
After he died, they did something to find his parents, I guess because they showed up at the hospital and sat with me until my parents got there too. I don't know why my parents had to come but they were there. His mom hugged me the whole time they sat with me, and his dad sat with his hand on my arm. They took care of me even though they didn't know me because I was supposed to become their daughter of sorts and they were supposed to become my family. They still check in every once in a while. I think they do it because they feel bad for me. Yeah, they lost their son, but I have to be alone for the rest of my life now. Is that worse?
I don't know what dying feels like, but coming to terms with the fact that I'll be alone for the remainder of my life's excruciating. I cried for a long time. Then I just went numb. What do you do when your supposed "soulmate" drops dead minutes after you meet them? The jury is still out on that one.
My body aches, so much so that I feel as if my joints will separate themselves from my body and lay to decay on the floor. My head pounds incessantly, with every pump of my heart that has lost its something to beat for. It all sounds so dramatic, I know. Especially for someone who wasn't so sure of the "soulmate" thing in the first place. But I stare at the timer on my arm and it keeps blinking, a constant reminder. I wonder about what could've been, what he was like, and what I'm going to do now, and I get lost. And after a while, I give in. I just stay lost.
My eyelids grow heavy, exhaustion taking hold once more. Soon I'm drifting out of consciousness, teetering on the edge of blankness or a nightmare.
"Excuse me," a voice filters through the darkness. "You wouldn't happen to have somebody to meet right now would you?" It's him. But it's only a shard of the past, stabbing my stomach with each painfully familiar word.
"I don't really know where to start but…" The voice continues. I shake my head, make it stop, please.
"I'm Rayleigh, and you're the one I've been waiting to meet all my life." What?
"Please wake up… I just want to know you. I need to know you." No. Stop. STOP.
When I open my eyes, the room around me is dark, and his voice is gone. The sun has set and another day has come and gone. It's never gone that far before, it's only ever gotten to the point where he collapses. My brain has never needed to conjure more than that to hurt me.
My stomach growls loudly, not having been fed nearly as often as it probably should.
"You need to eat, you can't just starve yourself to death because you lost me. You should know I wouldn't have wanted that." Goosebumps raise on my skin, my heartbeat clouds my ears. I sit up, dizziness taking hold of my vision. My head pounds, my skin slick with cold sweat.
"Hey," hands on my body, "you need to be careful."
I flinch from their grasp, jumping from my bed toward the door. Whipping around, I see him. Sitting at the foot of my bed, slowly turning to stare at me as I lean against the wall, he's there. No. He's not real. I've actually lost it. I'm hallucinating my dead, would-be person. My hair whips against my face as I shake my head, desperately trying to rid myself of this awful allusion. The sudden movement sends me into another dizzy spell. Sliding down the wall, I hold my head in my hands.
"Are you okay?" He's near me now, kneeling just in front of my huddled form.
Peeking through my fingers, I see his face more clearly. The brown eyes are there, the honey flecks standing out even in the dim light. The freckles are there, softly sweeping over his nose and cheeks. He looks so real.
"No." I'm yelling now. Yelling to rid my mind of this painful dream. "Go away. Stop." I shake my head some more. " Please stop, go away. "
"Whoa whoa, stop that." His fingers cradle my aching head, stilling the shaking. No, it's not real, he can't touch me. He's dead. He's supposed to be dead.
"Please, just let me help, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry I left you, I'm so sorry this happened." He's moving closer, pulling me into his chest. It's not warm like he was before. But its solid, it feels so real.
I push myself off, my hands meeting his chest. No. No. I scoot across the floor, putting my back against the bed frame. He moves toward me again, his expression pained, hands reaching toward me.
"I know you're scared, but please, just talk to me." He pleads, coming to a stop a couple inches away from my knee.
"Why is this happening?" I whisper, terrified.
He shakes his head slowly, "I don't know, but I've been wondering for a while, and I felt like I should come here. I'm so sorry. I didn't mean… I didn't mean to scare you." His eyes fill with tears threatening to spill over.
"You can't be real," I sniff. "People don't come back from the dead, you're gone." Tears of my own cut paths down my face, dripping into my knotted hair.
"I'm here, I'm here to be with you. To help you, I think." He leans toward me further, his outstretched arms connecting with mine. He pulls me into him once more, wrapping his arms around my back. His voice vibrates in his chest against my forehead, sending shivers down my spine. I unfold my legs from my chest, his chin coming to rest on top of my head.
This is all too much. I can't grasp what this is, what this means. Quiet tears turn to small sobs into his chest as my brain struggles to understand. He tightens his arms around me, beginning to hum softly in an effort to calm me down. He hums, rocking back and forth with me on my bedroom floor.
He doesn't feel familiar, he couldn't possibly, but some deeply rooted tension inside me finally releases itself as I sit there with him. I push away my thoughts of panic and sorrow, trying to enjoy this little break from reality.
His lips meet my forehead, and I give in.