*3 MONTHS LATER*
Slamming the fridge shut, I ignore Seth as he continues to whine about the candy he dropped outside. Of course for a kid, losing candy’s like losing a loved one so for the last ten minutes I’ve had to listen to his pleas for more.
At the edge of losing control, I turn on him and do my best to look intimidating.
“I’ve told you already, I’m not going back into town just to buy you more candy. Ask mum or dad.”
I turn away from him and head for my room, bottle of juice in hand and a biscuit in the other.
“You know you used to be more fun!” Seth yells after me, making me wince.
But still, I don’t turn around.
I’ve confined myself to my room these last couple of months, worried that the attractions of the world have somehow cut my tie to whomever my soul-mate might be. After the morning three months ago where he left with no warning, I’ve had little to no contact. Occasionally I can feel the thread peek open, but as soon as I pursue it, it closes again.
I can’t help but think it’s my fault somehow. Maybe I wasn’t meant to hunt it down the way I did. Maybe I was meant to just let it happen and now, because I haven’t, I’ve broken it.
I bellyflop onto my bed, ignoring the still half-read book. Usually I would have finished it only a day or so after starting, but thanks to my now distraction, I haven’t read anything and I don’t plan to until I get the tie sorted.
Taking a sip from the juice, I stare up at the ceiling and let my mind wander, exploring the far crevices of my mind, hunting down anything that might suggest the thread is still there and useable.
But as it happens like most times, I can’t help but fall asleep.
I’ve been dreaming of him for two months or so now, the faceless soul-mate of mine. We don’t even do anything of interest. Mostly I just find myself seated next to him on the grass of some park as I yabber away about my day. Sometimes though, depending what time of the day it is, he’ll respond to me. But it’s not a definite respond. I’m not sure if I’m just hearing what I want to hear.
For example, the other day I asked what his favourite book was and he responded with one of my own. Since the voice I hear in response is always my own, I don’t know what’s me or not.
But just like every other time, I find myself back in that park, seated next to my soul-mate so my left side is slightly touching his right. I’d don’t bother trying to see what he looks like since every other time I do ends in me waking up. Instead, I reach out and intertwine our fingers, sighing a little when I feel the shock of contact travel up my arm right to my heart.
“You know,” I say quietly. “I’m starting to really really hate all of this. I know I’ve said this before, but it’s getting worse. I lashed out at Seth today which isn’t unusual, but I didn’t even feel anger or hate. I feel empty without you here.”
With my free hand, I tug on the grass around my knees, waiting for any response. Unlike when I’m awake, the responses are more audible than anything, like a whisper in the ear.
“You’ve lived without me before. You don’t need me.”
Clenching my fist around the grass so as to stay calm, I take deep breaths. We’ve had this conversation quite a few times over the last few months and that’s really the only way I know it’s not me responding to myself.
“Yes,” I argue, “but eventually you and I have to find each other. You can’t leave me alone forever.”
“We’ll find each other eventually, just wait for that time. In the meantime, just pretend I don’t exist.”
“You can’t say something like that to me. You can’t say something like that to anyone.”
I feel the anger stirring inside of me. This always happens. He can’t let me look for one second into the future. He can’t let me have a completely happy dream that doesn’t involve him getting up me.
If this is how he is in real life, I’m not sure what I’ll do to him. Negativity is good for no one.
Along with the anger comes that tiny flicker of self-doubt to. I haven’t brought it up before with him, hoping he’d suddenly switch his tune so I won’t feel so put-down.
Still, my mum tells me the most important part of a relationship is trust and so, even though he;s rattling off a whole heap of stuff he’s already said to me before, I interrupt him.
“I just want to ask, are you not happy with me? Do you wish I was someone else? If so… then that’s okay.”
Really, it’s not though. Your soul-mate is your soul-mate. You don’t get another nor do they. You either deal with each other or go solo in life. I’ve never heard of any mates having big issues with each other. Maybe… maybe… I’ll be the first.
After a short pause, he responds to me.
“I never said that, did I?”
“You don’t have to,” I counter. “It’s just sort of obvious.”
“If that’s so, then I’m sorry it’s-“
“No you’re not,” I pull my knees to my chest. “If you were, then you wouldn’t do this to me everytime.”
He clutches my hand tighter, but I pull it free and stand up shakily. At least he can’t look at me.
“I’m sorry,” I say genuinely. “But I think I want to wake up now. I’ll talk to you, whenever.”
“Ruby,” he calls after me. “Please wait. I’m sorry.”
I want to stay… or the link between us does. Still, I don’t feel like crying in my sleep. Before I do something stupid like walk back to him, I quickly pinch my arm.
My eyes snap open instantly, but I have to blink a little to clear them. I’ve managed to cry after all.
Making my way to my desk, I pull a tissue from the box and quickly dab my eyes before blowing my nose.
I grab my empty plate and head for the kitchen where mum’s preparing dinner.
“You okay?” she asks, seeing through my façade.
“Been better,” I shrug. “I’m going for a walk. I’ll buy some candy for Seth while I’m at it. I never meant to upset him.”
“Take care of yourself.”
Usually she doesn’t let me go for walks so late, but she’s noticed I’ve changed over the months. She tried to get me to talk a few times, but I didn’t want to open. Even Angel gave up asking after a while. I don’t see her much anymore anyway. She found her mate, somewhere in Paris while she was visiting family.
Making my way through the park, I don’t notice the figure making his way towards him, not until he grabs my upper arm and swings him towards him.
Out of reflex, I bring my knees sharply upwards, but my balance has been thrown and I only manage to clip his ribs.
“Coby, what are-“
My breath is stolen from me, literally, when he roughly presses his lips to mine, almost hungrily. I squirm under his grasp, hoping someone will see and rip him off me.
I manage to break free eventually and scramble backwards a few steps, nearly tripping over the curb.
“Stay away from me,” I hiss at him. “Come any closer and I’ll scream.”
“Ruby, wait,” he holds his hands up. “I’m sorry.”
“You’re sorry for assaulting me? You know, you could just not do it.”
“Can you let me explain?” he ruffles his dark hair. “Please, give me a chance.”
“Fine, but you stay on your side and I’ll stay on mine. One move and I’m out of here.”
My mum wouldn’t approve. She always said if anything were to happen, no matter who from, I’m to scream and run without looking back until I find help.
But I’m not exactly feeling all that protective of myself and since he could have held me down if he wanted, I decide he’s not that big of a danger.
“Ruby, you’re my mate,” he says carefully. “Please listen to me.”
“Ha,” I laugh. “Sure you are. Dude, even if you were, I’m not sleeping with you now. If you like it, you have to put a ring on it first.”
“This isn’t a joke, Ruby.”
“Really? Because it feels like one. Besides, if you knew I was, you would have said something.”
“Would I have?” he raises his eyebrows. “Look at me. I’ve got literally nothing going for me. All I really have are the stars. There’s nothing I can give you or do for you.”
“You think that would matter to anyone? Your soul-mate is your everything. I’m sure whomever yours is, they’ll love you enough not to care. Anyone who’s willing to abandon you over lack of posessions are idiots.”
“You’re not listening to me,” he says around gritted teeth. “You’re my soul-mate. I figured it out as soon as you told me your name.”
Part of my freezes a little, remembering those months ago when my mate left right after I said my name, when Coby approached me in the park and then took off, not talking to me at all after that until now.
“I can prove it to you,” he says quietly, stepping closer slowly so he doesn’t scare me. “Close yours eyes.”
“As if,” I frown back. “I don’t feel like being kidnapped.”
“Trust me, please. I’m sorry I hurt you earlier. I’m sorry I’ve pretty much abandoned you. I’m sorry and I want to prove it all to you.
I feel myself getting upset again. I want to go home, but I know he’ll probably follow me.
“Fine,” I quickly clench my eyes closed. “Fine.”
“Good,” he’s footsteps get louder as he moves closer. “Now relax.”
“Funny,” I snort. “As if.”
“Ruby,” he says with a sigh. “Come on, if it doesn’t work, you can leave and I’ll never follow you again. Just trust me for one second.”
Balling my hands into fists, I start to take deep breaths, forcing my muscles and my mind to relax so it could just get over and done.
I feel the connection alive and kicking at the back of my mind, but I don’t chase it this time. I don’t feel like talking to my mate, not yet anyway. Besides, if it’s Coby after all, he can do it himself.
As if hearing that, my mind suddenly comes alive.
“Ruby, my name’s Coby. I was kicked out of home when my family ran out of money and only had enough to look after my little sister. I spend my days here in the park, finding refuge in my drawings and in the books I’ll occasionally loan from the library when they let me. I live day by day while most others can at least see three days a possibility. I have nothing but nature, nothing I can give to you, nothing I can support you with. But I swear, when I tried to distance myself from you, it wasn’t because I hated you or anything like that, but because someone like you doesn’t deserve someone like me.”
I start to feel uneasy and shift from foot to foot. Is this just my mind teasing me? Am I making this up myself? I go to open my eyes, but Coby grips my arms gently, but solid and puts his mouth to my ear.
“Listen to me.”
“How do I know it’s you?” I whisper back. “How do I know this isn’t me?”
“Ruby, I doubt I’m hardly your dream man.”
I want to argue, but he’s talking to me again.
“Trust me, right this moment, that I am the person in your mind and in front of you. If you don’t want me, that’s understandable, but I promise you, if you’re willing to give me the chance, I will give my everything to you. I’ve already started searching for jobs in other towns, I’ve already started to memorise some of your favourite books. I’ve started to love you.”
Should I doubt this? I don’t doubt this. I CAN’T doubt this.
Trust, that’s what my mum says, trust.
Eyes still closed and breath heavy, I step forward a little, freezing a little when my body touches his. He’s still, uneasy, probably worried I’ll try to knee him between the legs again. Instead, I reach outwards, fingers gently tightening around the fabric of his shirt.
I can practically feel him relax and then his arms are reaching out to twine around my waist and pull me even tighter to him. Feeling giddy, I stretch up on tiptoes, and kiss him.