Striking Thirteen

“You taught me that there was no such thing as soulmates.” He laughed out loud then and I stared at him, bewildered. “That’s funny,” he whispered. “You taught me that there was.” Based on The Name On Your Wrist by the lovely and amazing Helen Hiorns!


3. Striking Thirteen


Entry 16:


Patricia is really not a bad person. I want to make that really clear. Under other circumstances, we’d probably be friends. Granted, I’m talking about radically different circumstances here. Like where I’m a really fun person instead of an introvert who doesn’t know how to talk to people and where we don’t have each other’s names written on us and where people don’t expect things that you can’t give. But all the same, she’s nice. Nice enough that the knowledge that I am ruining my life makes me want to cry.


I always knew it’d be tough meeting her, but I didn’t expect things to be this complicated. I hadn’t realised this before, but I think I’d planned on marrying her. I always knew that marrying her wouldn’t make me happy, but up until now it had still felt inevitable; like I had no control over it. I know it sounds stupid, and

Akama would kill me for saying so, but I miss having no control.


It hasn’t crossed Patricia’s mind that I might not want to be with her, or indeed that she might not want to be with me. Before I met Akama, I wouldn’t have thought that that made her stupid. Now it makes me want to scream at her. I don’t know how she can be so ignorant. She doesn’t know me, she has no idea who I am. There’s no way that she could love me. But she hasn’t even entertained the idea that she doesn’t. I know I said I want to scream at her, but I don’t hate her. I feel sorry for her because I want her to be happy, and I bet there’s a boy (or maybe a girl) out here that could make her happy but she thinks she wants me. And I will never, ever in a thousand years be able to give her what she wants.


Now Patricia comes over after school and we make small talk while I wait for her to leave. Once she’s gone, I message Akama and as soon as it gets dark he’s at my window. Now I’m afraid that I can’t fall asleep without him.


Entry 17:


Every day Akama asks me if she’ll be coming over later, and almost every day I say yes. And every day I think he looks a bit sadder, but he never says anything. He just climbs through my window in the evening and we talk about other things and sleep. Sometimes it occurs to me that there are still a lot of things I don’t know about him. I say this because when I first met him I thought nothing ever bothered him, but now he seems sad a lot of the time. When I ask him why he always shakes his head and puts an arm around me and sometimes kisses me until I forget what I’ve asked him.


I don’t know why he would be jealous of Patricia. He knows that I don’t have those kinds of feelings for her. In honest, I’ve sort of started to enjoy hanging out with her, though. I think she’s not expecting me to jump into her arms anymore, she’s worked out I’m not that kind of person. I mean she still looks at me in a weird expectant way and treats me like I’m far important than I am, but it isn’t quite as bad as when we first met. Nowadays, I don’t necessarily spend my days waiting for her to leave. She’s really clever, and sometimes we do homework together or talk about books. She gave me some books to read, but they were all on the approved list.


The more I talk to her, the sadder I get that she’s grown up being defined by my name. She doesn’t deserve that - she’s her own person. It’s worse for girls, I think, because while she defines my future, I define her worth. I know that if (when) I reject her she’ll be blamed for it. The girls always are. Sometimes I want to ask her why she believes in it all. I mean I know everybody does, but she is clever and stubborn and strong-willed and it confuses me. How can we all be so blind sometimes? I suppose people believe what they want to believe.


I guess what I’m trying to say is that I like her, as a person. I just wish things were different.


Entry 18:


I’m really starting to think that Patricia might be an okay person. She came over on Saturday, and I actually had a really nice time with her. She told me that it didn’t matter if I wasn’t ready to be in an actual “relationship” with her, and she said she didn’t mind.


We watched some reality TV shows and did homework and talked about people we liked and didn’t like. Then I went downstairs and made dinner and when I got back she was smiling at me. I was really pleased that she doesn’t resent me, I still am. I know she doesn’t know the truth, but one day I think I might be able to tell her.


Entry 19:


Akama came over last night really late, a lot later than usual. I was half asleep and he climbed into my bed. His hands and feet were really cold, but I didn’t mind. I’d been afraid he wouldn’t come at all. We just lay there in silence for quite a while. I could sense something was wrong, but I didn’t know how to ask what. He gets annoyed sometimes if I ask too many questions. I think he thinks I don’t trust him, and I do. Eventually I turned around and faced him and he smiled at me in a way that made me think he really didn’t want to be anywhere but here. He kissed my forehead and hid his face in my hair.


“Promise me if anything happens you won’t forget,” he whispered.


“About what?”


“About this, about us. Everything. Don’t forget it.”


“Why would I forget it?”


He didn’t say anything.

“Why would anything happen?”


He shifted and moved away from me, looking at me with sad eyes. It was dark, but I think he might have been crying.


“Just if it did.”


His voice was quiet and choked up, and I just got this feeling he wasn’t telling me everything. But I could tell just by his tone of voice that he didn’t want me to say anything else about it so I just nodded.


“Of course I won’t forget.”


He smiled, and looked at me with bright eyes the same way he had on the day we’d first spoken. Like I was the most hilarious and interesting thing he’d ever seen.


“Akama…” I was worried. Worried and confused. He always confused me to some degree, but I felt like this time there was something he really should be telling me. “What’s going on?”


“You know,” he said quietly, taking my hand and lacing our fingers together “You changed my life.”


“You changed mine too,” I mumbled into the pillow. “You taught me that there was no such thing as soulmates.”


He laughed out loud then and I stared at him, bewildered.


“That’s funny,” he whispered. “You taught me that there was.”


Entry 20:


It’s been three days since I last wrote in this, and I don’t know what to do. Akama has stopped showing up to school. And to my house. He’s just stopped. He hasn’t contacted me. I’ve tried messaging him and calling him but I’ve got nothing back. I don’t know what to do. Really, I don’t know. I go to school and I attend classes because I don’t want anyone to notice me acting strangely, but I know they have anyway.


I’ve tried talking to the teachers, but they tell me he’s okay. I think they know where he is, but they won’t tell me. They just say that he’s okay, that I don’t need to worry about him anymore.


But I can’t stop worrying. How can I stop worrying? I’ve seen him every day for months, and I can’t live any other way now.


I’m ignoring Patricia. She’s keeping her distance, actually. Like she can tell.


I don’t know what to write anymore. I just want to disappear until he comes back.


Entry 21:


This will be my last entry for a while.


I think it might be my last entry ever.


Today they pulled me out of school. I was in English Literature struggling through another book about soulmates. They pulled me out of school and they told me that Akama wasn’t coming back. That’s what they said. “He’s not coming back.” And when I asked why they just looked at me like it was a stupid question, like I had no right to ask. They told me that they had found some information about him, and that it had to do with me. They told me that he was in trouble. They said I’d be in trouble too, but he had said it was his fault. They said that I shouldn’t feel guilty because I was pushed into it. When I asked them what exactly I’d been pushed into they didn’t reply.


That was when Patricia came into the room and she looked different. She wasn’t smiling, she didn’t look confident. She looked scared. And guilty. And then she told me that she’d read my messages on Saturday while I had gone downstairs.


For a moment, I didn’t know what she meant. And that it’s like it all came flooding it at once. I remembered every word I had sent to him - about him and about me and about her and about us and I knew what she’d done then.


They told me they’d taken him away somewhere, but they couldn’t tell me where. That I wouldn’t be seeing him again. That no one would be seeing him again.


I can’t think about it anymore. I don’t want to think about it. I don’t want to think about anything. I feel like I’m drowning. This time there just is no top.


Entry 22:


I woke up in the hospital. There was a throbbing pain in my arm all the way up where I’d cut it. For a second I thought I’d dreamt up the whole thing. That I’d never started school again, that I’d never met my fake soulmate or my real soul mate and one had never betrayed the other. The Agent in my room was the first clue that I was wrong.


He told me that he knew everything, and I had no doubt that he did. He told me that they’d taken Akama away. They said what he’d done was wrong.


“What about me?” I heard myself ask “Everything I did was wrong too.”


“We’re willing to overlook that. If you cooperate,” the Agent said, not looking at me directly.


I stared at him silently. I didn’t want to know what he meant by ‘cooperate’.

“You have to…” he took a deep breath, and I almost thought I could see sympathy in his eyes. “We think you should marry her. If you do that, there’s no need to convict you. We’ll stream you into medicine at the end of the year, you’ll become a doctor. A good one. We’ll let you work here, if you want. That’s what you want, isn’t it? You can carry on living your life as normal. We just want you to do this one little thing. You can do that, can’t you?” He spoke to me like a child, and I wanted to punch him.


I didn’t say anything for a long time. My mouth was dry. All I had to do was marry her. Marry the person whose name I have been carrying around my whole life. Have children with her. Look at her every day and know that she had been the one to take him away from me.


I think that was when I really understood. I understood what he was trying to tell me all this time. He was trying to tell me not to let them win, not to give them what they wanted. Because as soon as you do that, you’re part of the problem. If I didn’t do what they say, they had the power to kill me or put me in prison. But if I did- well then they’d imprisoned me already. I knew what he’d want me to do. And I owed it to him, he’d taken the fall for me.


I stared at the ground a while longer and then I said “No.”


The Agent glared at me, his fists curling up like he was getting ready to hurt me.


“What do you mean?”

He was giving me a second chance. “I mean no,” my voice came out clearer this time. “I don’t want to marry her. I won’t marry her. She’s not my soulmate.”


He laughed at me then. “There’s no such thing,” he said.


“There is.” I felt like I couldn’t control my words anymore. “You’ve just got it all wrong. And I won’t marry her. We both deserve better than that.”


“He’s gone now, Jonah. You don’t need to do what he says.” The Agent was getting agitated now. I realised then that he’d been expecting me to ‘cooperate’ straight away. How many people had been in this situation?


“I don’t care.”


“He’s dead.”


I flinched. “I don’t care.”


The Agent nodded and got up. “I’ll be back,” he said, and locked the door behind him with a  click.


I know he’ll be back in a few minutes, but I wanted to write one last entry. In a minute, I’m going to publish this. I know they’ll take it down, but not before people see it. It will spread to thousands before they find it, I expect. Just like the contraband books.


I don’t know what they’re going to do with me now, but I don’t care.


Maybe this is them winning, in a way. They got us apart. They’ll probably kill us both.


But I still have my truth.


I hope you have yours too.


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