The Name On Your Wrist

Somewhere in the country were a hundred people with ‘Corin’ written on their wrist. Those hundred people were desperately searching for any Corin that might have their carpinomen too. One of those hundred people will be searching for me.

And it was my prerogative to make damn sure that I was difficult to find.

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2. Incident, rumour

 

 I decided I was too damn tired for the heartbroken charade when I finally made it back to my house – if I was exhausted enough to start seeing my dead father across the street then I certainly wasn’t in a position to force myself to start crying about my wounded soul. Instead, I let my Mum work herself up into a tip-top performance of disappointment and resignation before trooping off to bed in shame. Naturally, there were things I could have done to prevent such a scene: I could have contacted her, should I so wanted too, but the ‘my TTC went flat’ excuse rolled of the tongue with such ease that it was barely worth the extra thought and effort. Never mind it was illegal, Mum expected these sorts of things from me.

 

Still, I liked letting my mother down as much as I liked letting anyone else down. I always felt like I was teaching them a valuable sort of lesson, imparting knowledge so to speak, because there’s nothing like a huge disappointment to make you realise that your expectations are stupid and unattainable; nothing quite like having your trust shot to hell to make you aware of the limitations of humanity. And given no one listened when I told them that, it was just so much easier to show them.

 

One person who understood that to the same levels as me was my sister, the messed up and embittered Jacinta, who woke me up the following morning when she was entirely ready for school to inform me that we had to leave in five minutes. The subsequent rush in the bathroom was probably helpful for perfecting my heartbroken status, but it also meant that I didn’t even have time to brush my damn hair (having only just managed to brush my teeth, which was obviously a priority) before Jacinta reappeared to darken the doorstep of my bathroom with a small smile playing across her features.

 

God, my sister was a piece of work.

 

I wasn’t entirely sure when our relationship descended into pissing each other off as much as humanly possible, but now I could barely remember a time when we were actually amiable towards each other. Either way, it wasn’t exactly uncommon for her to switch off the alarm on my Tabloid to ensure that I spent the day avoiding mirrors.

 

“I’m driving.” I muttered as we exited the house together, Jacinta pressing the button to lock up the house as I stuffed half a slice of bread into my mouth and chewed. Awful stuff that Mum had cooked herself. One day, she’d give up the attempts to emulate blissful domesticity; until then, it was badly cooked bread all round.

 

Jacinta didn’t answer but headed to the passenger seat anyway. She didn’t like driving much, so I hadn’t expected her to counter my assertion - I don’t think she liked having control of something that could potential kill. Although cars weren’t like how they were, so it was actually pretty impressive to do anyone any damage – get too close to the path of a car with your TTC and the speed started dissolving – but I suppose you could still damage yourself plenty. Having that kind of power was just too much for sister, apparently.

 

Our friends from the psych ward tried to pass this off as some lingering issues with cars after our father's death, but it hadn't been until after Jacinta's meltdown that she'd objected to cars. They just liked finding excuses for Jacinta's nonsense.

 

I pressed my head against the back of the chair and took in a deep breath. Now, it seemed like it might have been better to explain about the death of another era of Thomas last night, because she’d undoubtedly let me take a day off to get over the trauma and I really didn’t feel like facing school. Not that that was new.

 

Jacinta leaned over and pressed her thumb against the recognition pad and the engine kicked into life. Bloody annoying anti-theft device, employed by my mother as the strictest form of punishment. Despite the car actually belonging to me, one late night making out session with Tom whilst parked on the front drive had led to my finger prints been removed from the car’s system, leaving me unable to start the engine without my sister's cooperation. I’d always thought it was dumb: it just encouraged car thieves to cut off people’s fingers to use them as a bloody sort of key. I’d rather lose my car and keep my thumb.

 

“Not skiving again?” Jacinta asked pointedly as I reversed out of the drive.

 

“Told Mum about that yet?” I returned, glancing at the road and tightening my hands over the steering wheel. “Or saving it till I’m out of the dog house about staying out late last night?”

 

“There’s no need to keep anything saved up,” Jacinta countered, flipping down the mirror and frowning at her reflection with a macabre expression that wasn’t quite suited to what she was faced with, “you’ll screw up again just as quickly.”

 

I swore at her distractedly, my thoughts catching on her expression upon facing her appearance – it was the same expression she used when looking at me, actually, one of utter loathing. Sure, neither of us had exactly inherited classic beauty or pretty features, but that didn’t mean it was something worth getting upset over – we were striking, instead, as my Mum always said. Didn’t make a damn bit of difference to get upset over it, anyway.

 

“Put the mirror away, Jacinta,” I said out loud, “don’t need anything else in this car broken.”

 

“Hilarious.” Jacinta countered in a dark whisper, shutting the mirror with a clunk, folding her arms and then receding into herself. It used to scare me when she first started it, but now I took it as a well needed respite from our perpetual bickering; it was like she had a power off switch and when she didn’t like the present anymore she just turned off completely. Her eyes turned to this weird, harrowing shade of death, her lips twisted into a straight line and she was just not there as a person anymore. I’ve never asked where she goes, when she’s like this, because quite frankly I didn’t care.

 

She must like it there, though, because she spends half of her goddamn life sat, still as a statue, unresponsive to anything until she chooses to resurrect herself. There’s a transitional, in between state which she takes on during school hours – one where she can answer questions in class, walk down corridors and conduct overly polite conversations without really registering where she is or who she is. I call her states of mind ‘dead’ ‘robotic’ and ‘hell.’

 

It was for the best, really, because although her robotic state wasn’t particularly alluring, she was much more amiable when she wasn’t being herself. Harsh, maybe, but it was still true. ‘Hell’ was a state of mind that only I was blessed with and I had to love her by default. I just about managed it.

 

I plugged my TTC into the car and flicked through all the transmission waves until there was something almost decent to listen to. I don’t even like music, when it comes down to it, but whenever I get within a five mile radius of school I’m conscience of the need to start acting – most of the vapid teenage girls here liked to give the impression of worshipping music and I couldn’t be bothered to attempt to defy the stereotype.

 

Anyway, it distracted from Jacinta’s hollow expression quite nicely. I could hate the electronically generated beats instead of hating my sister, which was a much preferable position to be in. Less barely concealed angst and questions lurking behind hatred of techno.

 

The school car park was as full as ever but it still struck a chord with me. I blamed skipping Monday and therefore managing three whole days of absence from the place, but it seemed ridiculous that there should be so many people here and yet Jacinta still remained eating lunch alone daily. It wasn’t like I had any friends, either, but I saved up all my people skills for whichever Thomas I was currently dating – I couldn’t deal with people, whereas Jacinta needed people in her own way. It was a bloody paradox and I didn’t like it.

 

 “Jacinta,” I muttered, surprising myself by speaking up when I hadn’t really intended to. The usual routine dictated me abandoning her in the car the second the engine juddered to a stop, but now she was blinking herself back into reality and staring at me with those wide eyes. This was a real spanner in the works. “I broke up with Tom last night.”

 

“So?” Jacinta retorted. The word felt particularly harsh being formed from her lips, but I was used to this sort violence just hidden below the surface of our conversations.

 

“Just thought you should know,” I said, pulling my bag onto my shoulder and pushing the door open, “so you don’t find out from someone else.”

 

“I don’t care about your sex life, Corin.” Jacinta spat, pushing the car door open and switching over to robotic in one smooth movement. I watched her walk towards school for a few minutes to give myself time to compose my features and remind myself of who I was supposed to be – Corin Blacksmith, nineteen, half-orphaned, still yet to be streamed into a career, with an older sister with a hundred different attitude problems. Or, more precisely, a heartbroken Corin Blacksmith who’d just been messed around by yet another guy, damaged goods, naive and a bit stupid, every bit the kid-teenager.

 

Tears would help with the whole charade but I was too dry of emotion to conjure up anything with quite such dramatic results. I closed my eyes for a second, head against the steering wheel, before deciding to go for a pseudo I’m-trying-to-be-strong-act. Mostly because I was lazy and couldn’t be bothered to think of something more complicated than that, but partially because there was only so much I could stand people insisting on believing I was weak and vapid. The patronising advice got old very quickly.

 

I detached my TTC from the car before removing myself from the car too; bag on my shoulder, forced smile on my face, shoulders squared up to face the day. Exactly like normal then, really.

 

*

 

It was a special talent that really irritating people have to whisper louder than most people are able to shout: I was always torn between thinking the perpetrators were aiming to be heard, the subconscious knowing something was going to hurt you and therefore increasing your hearing ability to degrees that were frankly absurd and, of course, good old fashioned paranoia.

 

Lidea Crackmore had the most carrying voice I’d ever had the misfortune of being whispered about in. Worse than that, her insults and comments weren’t very original and I’d heard most of them at least five times today. It was from Lidea’s lips, though, that it suddenly began to spark up proper levels of irritation in my stomach. I had high tolerance for irritating things due to living with Jacinta and my mother, so instead of actually getting angry at people I tended to simmer until I was allowed to blow up in the space of my own room, but then people were being genuinely more ridiculous than normal today. I was owed an opportunity to scream ad swear at people, it would be so very satisfying.

 

I’d known that the dramatic ending to my relationship with Tom would place me firmly into the heads of the school’s resident gossips, but I hadn’t banked on this level of participation from all sides.

 

I’d seen Tom three times already. He was waiting for me outside my first class which meant I’d had to take a detour to the further education part of the centre to escape him following me (being a bit thick, he’s yet to qualify for any FE courses and so is unable to get past the doors) and that had led to me walking into the first Thomas. As far I was concerned, Thomas Brooks was so far in the past that I placed him about the same level as Egyptians in terms of being ancient, yet I’d ended up facing him in the middle of the corridor for an uncomfortable, unplanned staring contest before I’d pretended to burst into tears and made a break for the girls toilets.

 

Just after lunch I’d seen Tom Asquith talking to Tomas Prandle and then I’d written off the day as a humungous mistake – it certainly hadn’t been part of the plan to be haunted by ghosts of Thomas’s past, and I was still pretty close to being convinced that they were about to form some sort of Corin’s-ex-support-group and walk around wearing badges declaring ‘I was the wrong Thomas’ which could only damage my reputation further.

 

And it wasn’t much cop at current.

 

Then, with the promise of Biological Sciences class being a Thomas-free-zone, I’d dared to hope for a chance to breathe.  Naturally, that lead to Lidea Crackmore conducting a very loud whispered conversation about me.

 

“If I were her,” Lidea whispered, “I’d transfer schools.”

 

“Where too?” Jenny asked in return, perfectly logically. “It’s not like there’s anywhere else close by.”

 

“Her and her sister.”

 

I turned around in my chair and sent her a vicious look, folding my arms over my chest and trying to restrain my tongue from saying something cutting and harsh – not because I cared about Lidea’s feelings, but because more reports of me having a ‘bad attitude’ would delay the moment when I’m finally streamed even further.

 

“Or just stop dating until she knows it’s an anima-vinculum situation,” Jenny countered, “she must feel awful, though, being played again.”

 

My lips curled slightly at sound of the Latin: anima-vinculum – the romantic’s word for ‘soulmates’ with a literal definition of ‘soul bond’ which was both overly sentimental and dipped down into the idealistic. The only redeeming merit for something so fluffy and heart-warming is the fact that, linguistically, it’s a really pretty phrase.

 

“She can’t exactly demand potential datees to take off their wrist guard first, can she?”

 

“No,”

 

“And Tom made it out like she was his carpinomen. And, from what I heard, she did see his wrist.”

 

“Reckon she’d tell us who it was?”

 

“I wouldn’t,” I put in, turning around to face the pair of them again with my eyebrows raised slightly, “not that I owe anything to him – it’s just, with how loud you two whisper I think they’d overhear.”

 

It was doubtful, considering Teana Briggs wasn’t in this class or even currently in this building (as clever and dedicated, she’d been streamed to ‘doctor’ almost as soon as she’d turned sixteen – she now spent most of the time in the ‘hospital training’ part of the Education Centre which was pretty damn far away from the level four science subsection), but it would only be about ten minutes before the whole world was aware of the unlikely potential pairing and it’d make the poor girl uncomfortable. Plus, I liked having my shroud of secrets – it protected me.

 

Lidea’s eyes doubled in size and then the two started to whisper with renewed fervour. I was betting that by the end of the day everyone would be convinced that either Jessica Standing or Billimena Dowse were going to become the future Ms Tom Asquith.

 

At last, the lesson ended and I pulled my bag over my shoulder and exited the classroom as quickly as possible.

 

 In terms of intelligence, I was way above level four science classes, but the Education Centre was adamant that I was not well adjusted enough to be streamed, when they’ll decided what job I’ll be training for, so I was not allowed to progress any higher than level four classes. All that meant was I’d covered so many of the classes offered to the highest level that they could pigeon hole me into any career they liked easily. And still I was left to rot with a mix of the stupid and the young.

 

When I was feeling particularly bitter, I blamed Jacinta for that. They didn’t really like younger siblings overtaking their older siblings and, although Jacinta was apparently considered more well-adjusted than me (bullshit, if ever there was any), she still wasn’t allowed to progress any further than FE level thanks to her current state of robotics. The system might think it was kind to stop Jacinta being reminded of how royally she’d screwed up when I overtook her, education wise, despite the fact that she’s two years older than me, but it was cruel for me to be stuck in the bloody system, every damn day, because my sister was a first class nut job.

 

I accidentally walked into Josaphine Woolgrave in my rush to get out of the classroom and she offered me a knowing sort of intrigued look that made my stomach turn. Any contact with her made my skin crawl.

 

Damn, today really was like walking through a messy concoction of the past and the present. Both were depressing. None quite as depressing as the concept of the future.

 

*

There had been a time, before my Dad died and before Jacinta turned into the monstrous creature that she was now, when I’d actually been relatively sociable.

 

At age four I’d been invited to start attending the Education Centre for basic pre-level classes, providing my parents considered me ready to begin what was essentially school. Jacinta had gotten her invitation before her fourth birthday and was doing just fine, so my parents agreed that four was plenty old enough for me to enter the first stream of education.

 

Josaphine, or ‘Josa’ as she rightly insisted upon, had been invited at approximately the same time. My first day preceded hers by about half a week, so when I was appointed the task of being her ‘friend’ until she settled in, I’d considered this entirely beneath my levels of sheer intelligence (I’d practically mastered typing, by then) and of course that lead to a three year long feud. The system doesn’t think much to students who actively don’t get on with each other, so we were pushed into all the same classes and seating plans until we cracked and gave into what they wanted – friendship.

 

Except, our friendship wasn’t as docile and safe as they’d no doubt predicted. We considered our first Tabloids as awesome, but our plug out TTC – transportable tabloid communicators – as tracking devices. We’d take out the batteries or leave them in the toilets then run off to some part of the Education Centre and spend the day whispering about things where no one was able to find us. It wasn’t technically against the law to not have a working TTC on you at age seven (that law kicked in at age twelve), but it was highly frowned upon and lead to both of us being separated and prevented from starting level one classes until we were beyond ready.

 

After producing the most exuberant friendship of my life they then set about trying to destroy it, bit by bit.

 

As it turned out they shouldn’t have bothered with the effort.  Josa confined in me and in return I had to confide something to her. That was the rules of our naive eight year old friendship, except back then I had so little to confess. My parents were happy, my big sister was a regular little genius, and I was pretty happy too.

 

I didn’t have anything to match the fact that her parents were asexual soulmates. That her Dad was actually gay and she’d been produced through artificial means. That they were borderline aromantic, too, and were actually just two really good friends (anima-vinculum friends, the absolute truest form of friendships) who were bringing her up.

 

I had to give her something in return.

 

There are some things that, when you know them, are impossible to forget.

 

And it tore our friendship to shreds.

 

*

Onomastics and Etymology (O&E) was one of my favourite classes. The fact that it was so specialised in itself meant that the Level Four class wasn’t unforgivable dull, although I was still top of the class by a long way. Even a promised hour of O&E wasn’t enough to cheer myself up after the abysmal day.

 

In some streams of FE the course had a requirement of continual widening of the knowledge base through Level Four classes, and being the beginning of the month a whole new section of students had been promoted to FE (and I should have been with them, damn it) and were now dipping back into lower level classes to meet the course requirements – four new students meant the time old introduction class.

 

Our first names would be entered into the worldwide name database on Mr Robin’s Tabloid. The class results would appear on the Tabloid and our individual results flashed up on our TTC within about ten minutes. It was a program he’d written himself, connected to the database and synched up to all our TTC signals, but he’d only tell you that if you asked. If not, he was happy to let us assume he’d just downloaded it.

 

I knew my individual results by heart these days: ‘Corin’ was in the bottom two hundred names worldwide (although variations such as ‘Corinne’ were more popular’), majority of Corins lived in either England or America, approximately about a hundred Corins in England. The statistics assume that your soulmate comes from the same country, which is distinctly more likely but not a definite, which basically means this; somewhere in the country were a hundred people with ‘Corin’ written on their wrist. Those hundred people were desperately searching for any Corin that might have their carpinomen too. One of those hundred was searching for me.

 

And it was my prerogative to make damn sure that I was difficult to find.

 

“At the bottom again, Corin.” Mr Robin said with a grin in my direction. It was a bit predictable for the class results to throw out that my name was the most uncommon in the room, with the slightly depressing estimate of how long my Search would be and the likelihood of one of the other members of the class being my carpinomen. Or, if you prefer it, soulmate.

 

“I like being on the bottom,” I returned with my own smile, which caused Mr Robin to laugh and shake his head slightly and several other class members, particularly the new ones, to stare at me as though I’d grown an extra rather random body part, “With Colton on top, as per.”

 

“You don’t hold it against me that my parents are vastly unoriginal?” Colton asked, lazing back in his chair and dragging his dark gaze over to me: he was my age, already boosted up to FE levels and had started this course last month. He was good at it, too.

 

“It’s hardly your fault,” I said kindly, with only a hint of sarcasm, “at least your search is likely to end the day you start it.”

 

“Only if his carpinomen is as common as his own,” Mr Robin interjected, “so, name a popular girls name, MacDonnell.”

 

“Amy.” Oakley MacDonnell returned, turning around and raising an eyebrow at the resident Amy in the classroom. She was in second position and looked embarrassed. At fifteen, she had significant levels of brain powers and probably wasn’t used to being subjected to poor attempts at flirting from guys like Oakley.  That was the problem with streaming and only moving up classes when considered ‘ready’ – they didn’t factor in things like bad flirting and crude remarks. Only intelligence and emotional maturity.

 

If anything, to survive in most Level four classes you needed emotional immaturity to stop losing faith in all of humanity. An ability to laugh at bodily functions was considered a needs must for Level three classes, whereas in Level Four classes it was all about sex jokes. Poor girl was likely to be traumatised by the time she’d completed the course.

 

Mr Robin put in ‘Amy’ and ‘Colton’ into the database.

 

“Estimated two months search time,” Macdonnell read out with a grin, “but you’ll probably wind up with the wrong Colton and or Amy.”

 

“Let’s run it again, but a bit differently this time,” Mr Robin said, addressing the class with that easy teacher way of his, “our resident bottom position and our top student – Corin and Colton.”

 

Colton leant back in his chair further and quirked up his eyebrows at me as the rest of the class started cheering and generally making a lot of noise. I smiled back in response and folded my arms over my chest.

 

“EST… six months,” Mr Robin read out, “which just goes to show, class, that it’s not all about how common your name is. It’s how common a pairing the carpinomens are.”

 

I liked Mr Robin. As much as his introductory class was recycled on a regular basis, he had a way of injecting something fun to what could potentially be quite a dry subject: that’s the thing about streaming, though, if you get the right people on top then everyone is placed in the perfect job. More than that, you get exactly the number of people you need for each job – if there’s a nurse shortage, just stream more people into the nurse courses, an overload of cleaners, push people away from that career path. Kills ambition, of course, but it means you don’t have to worry about it. They tell you what to do and then you do it.

 

They told Mr Robin to become an O&E teacher and here he was, lamenting the fact that there were thousands of different contributing factors to how long your search would be – throwing out the fact that there was likely a reason for how long you searched for too, as if fate was one of the more significant of those contributing factors.

 

“So,” Mr Robin continued with a flourish indicating Colton and I, “although, as far as statistics go, it’s unlikely that these two could be anima-vinculum, the reality is much kinder than the stats – fate.”

 

Well, that’s one word for it.

 

Then Mr Robin’s tabloid flickered off our class stats and each of our TTC buzzed into action, because there was a news bulletin. As a mass of people, we all shifted in our seats slightly and waited to find out what the news was.

 

And someone’s killed themselves in the D'livere.

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