C A L E B
Fourth period History was the only reason I actually went to school anymore.
As the rest of the class focused on the screen, I leaned back in my chair, looking out the window. A bird hopped from side to side on the gutter. It chirped at me through the window before flying off towards the town.
My stomach clenched. I fought back a groan. The pain had subsided enough by the morning that my mother had decided I was fit enough to go to school, much to my horror. I’d stuffed folders into my bag and left without a goodbye. All she did was laugh.
The band on my wrist beeped.
Pupils close to me turned round, glaring at me. I held up my hands in mock surrender.
Tracy Grant scowled at me from the front of her room. I just looked away. Despite being a teenage model and aspiring actress, that girl was insanely unlikeable. You’d think for someone who wanted to work with other human beings would act more civil towards them in the first place.
My band beeped again. My mother had said the bracelet might start going a bit weird.
Sighing, Mr Thomas paused the movie. “Whoever owns the band making that god awful noise, I suggest you go to the nurse. Sounds like you might be getting married soon.”
The class sniggered and turned their heads to me. I forced my cheeks not to colour. Grabbing my bag, I high-tailed it out of the class, the teacher restarting the movie as I left.
The cool air of the corridor brushed against my hot cheeks. I wiped my hand against my forehead and squeezed my eyes shut.
“You aren’t looking too good, hot stuff.”
I blinked my eyes open.
In the empty corridor, Megan stood sifting through her locker. She grinned at me over her shoulder as she pulled a Modern Studies book from the locker.
I sighed, rubbing at my face. My hair stuck to my sweaty forehead in curling tendrils. Gross.
“I’ve looked better, I gotta admit,” I chuckled feebly. Frowning, I jutted my chin towards her. “What are you doing out of class?”
“I have to go see the nurse,” she shrugged, slamming the door shut. “What about you?”
She grinned, eyeing my sweating face. “Yeah, I should’ve seen that coming.”
“Walk with me?”
As we walked towards the nurses’ office, she filled me in on her family. Two brothers, older, and a younger sister. Her parents had been separated but had recently gotten back together, much to her disgust.
I shook my head and said, “I don’t get it. Isn’t it every kid’s dream for their parents to stay together?”
A flicker of something brushed across her face. Uncomfortable. Her fringe fell in front of her eyes and she tucked it behind her ear before replying. “Not me. My dad, for sure, is better away from my mum. He gets a little too protective of her. And Callie.”
I thought about the angry phone call in the music room yesterday.
“What about you?” Megan’s eyes found mine as we stopped outside the door to Angela’s office. Her hands tightened around the straps of her bag and she smiled. “Brothers? Sisters?”
“One sister—well, adoptive sister. Pain in the ass.”
“Trust me,” she laughed. “I get it.”
As she lifted her hand to push open the door, I gently caught her wrist. Her eyes darted to mine, stricken.
“I don’t get it,” I whispered, frowning down at her ringed hand.
“Don’t get what?” Her voice was barely louder than mine.
I lifted my head. Some insignificant part of my mind noted how I had to tilt my head down to look her in the face, even though she wasn’t that small.
“I hated you, when I first met you. Damn, I pretty much hated you until yesterday evening.”
Her brow furrowed and Megan scowled at me. “There better be a point to this story, Dwight.”
She only ever called me Dwight when I’d seriously annoyed her. Something about that made me grin.
“It takes a lot for me to forgive someone,” I breathed. “Yet I forgave you in literally under a week.”
Megan pursed her lips. “Forgave me for what exactly?”
I frowned. “You accused me of smashing up your car.”
“You did smash up my car.”
“We’ve been through this. I didn’t.”
Yanking her hand away, she spat, “You did, Dwight! God damn. Can you take responsibility for once in your life?”
Her heel kicked into the door and she marched into the nurse’s office. I was left staring angrily into empty space.
Well that hadn’t gone as well as I’d planned.
“Any pain in your stomach?”
“Yeah, but that’s nothing new.”
Angela’s lips twitched but she just rolled her eyes and wrote something on her medical pad. She said, “Right or left?”
I’d come to learn that that was usually how people asked which arm your band was on. I shoved my right at her. Slipping her glasses up her nose, the stocky nurse gently pressed her fingers to the cool bracelet.
A screen appeared on the silver metal. It wasn’t useful for much apart from the time.
I frowned at her. To me, the screen just showed numbers. But from the way the nurse peered at the band, I guessed whatever she was seeing was a little more significant than the time of day.
“Hurry up, doc,” I said. “Deliver the news. Am I pregnant or not?”
Chuckling, she swatted at me. “Stop playing around.”
I slid my arm back towards me, grinning. “What’s wrong with me?”
Angela clicked on a few things on the computer screen. Her face grew serious.
Nerves tightened my stomach. I picked at the fraying strands of my hoodie sleeve to pass the time.
Eventually, I was done being patient. “Uh, Angela? Kinda on a schedule here. Y’know, classes to attend, exams to prepare for...”
“When do you turn eighteen, Caleb?”
“In two weeks,” I said, not looking up. “Why?”
“Seems to me that your band needs removing a little early,” she said, smirking.
I choked on nothing. The air seemed trapped in my throat.
She shrugged, clicking her mouse. “It happens sometimes. Early Separation, they call it.”
“So what you’re saying,” I spluttered. “Is that my soul mate is right here, right now?”
The nurse pointed a long red nail towards the waiting room. I swallowed dryly as I looked at Megan sitting reading through the glass window.
“Anything can trigger it, at any time,” she warned, eyeing me. “Especially if new people move into town.”
I listlessly looked back through the window. Megan looked so innocent; she sat, lost in a book, leg jiggling as her eyes raced across the page.
I thrust my thumb across my shoulder. “Her? No, no way.”
Angela rolled her eyes and scratched at her temple. She looked exasperated. “Caleb, I’m not saying it’s her, I’m just saying you might be an early bloomer. It happens sometimes. Only ever after the seventeenth birthday, never before. It’s not a big deal—it doesn’t even necessarily mean that your soul mate is here. It just means that something in your mind has triggered.”
“But why? Why has it triggered?”
“Because your band told it to.” She jabbed her finger towards the silver bracelet that in the last few minutes, I’d come to severely hate. “Your band releases chemicals that go to your brain when it locates your match before, or on, your eighteenth birthday. You usually need to take the band off when you turn eighteen, and have it plugged into a computer, for it to be able to tell you directly who your match is . It doesn’t even beep, like yours is doing. But you seem to be a special case, Caleb Dwight.”
I scowled at the silver digging into my wrist. I didn’t want to be a special case.
Then, I ran through what she had said. “Wait...so you know who my soul mate is?”
Angela looked uncomfortable. “I’m meant to leave it to the Registered to tell you...”
“Angela...” I whined.
“Fine, fine,” she shook her head. “It’s a girl named Tracy Grant, I believe.”