The Science Of Soulmates

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Eva lives in a world defined by time, a world where there is only one countdown - the time until she meets her soulmate. Everybody has one, a small, thin strip on their wrists, designed to calculate the exact time it will take for them to find the person they are destined to be with. It is a system that has worked for hundreds of years, but times are slowly changing, and with the recent arrival of a very prominent threat, discovering the one she is destined to be with could ruin Eva's chances at a normal life forever.

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2. The Flaw In The System

Chapter Two

The Flaw In The System

 

Later that evening, when I had accompanied Erid home and walked back to my apartment, I lay sprawled on my bed, listening to an audiobook while putting the finishing touches on the final art piece for my examination portfolio. I had chosen art as my career branch. Erid chose law, as she was surprisingly perceptive. My other friend, Gene, decided he was destined to be a make-up artist, and dropped out of school without selecting any career branch, much to my dismay.

"So you're going to leave me with these idiots?" I whined as he told me the news whilst we were walking home together on the last day of term. I set my homework down on a crystal bench in front of me and folded my arms in protest. "I thought you quite liked Erid," he mused. "Yeah, but I have hardly any classes with her," I answered abruptly.

"Then find new friends, you loner," he grumbled and slumped onto the bench, his body language indicating he was tired of my complaints. "I'm not a loner Eugene, I just hate most people as a rule," I argued determinedly. He rolled his eyes dramatically. I always assumed he would go on to choose theatre; he had a gift for performing that nobody could match. What a waste of talent, I thought.

"Don't use that name against me, Evangeline Cyan Cortez." I glared at him silently, until he finally surrendered. "Alright, I'm sorry Eva, I get it. We were supposed to be a team and now I'm ditching you. But you have to understand, this is what I want to do in life, I can't just waste away in an office building somewhere, okay? You know that's all my grades would allow for me," he said quietly, clearly irritated with his options. I stared at him intensely. "Gene, you know I've got your back whatever you decide to do," I finally muttered. His lips twitched and he coughed, covering his mouth. We walked for much longer than usual that day, enjoying each other's company and talking about everything we had ever wanted to say to one another.

There wasn't anybody else quite like him, and even he was fully aware of it. Although I tried very hard to support his choice, I felt incredibly lonely when I had nobody to gossip with in class, or throw empty gum wrappers at in corridors. However, as months passed, I began to feel better. I discovered that my loneliness was not necessarily caused by being alone, and even enjoyed the silence in class, without Gene's constant attempts to distract me. It allowed me to focus, and pass my exams with a much better grade, In a way, perhaps it was better for both of us that he left when he did.

I drummed on my wrist with a pencil, listening to the sound it made when it touched the plastic of my countdown. Twenty days, twelve hours, five minutes, thirty two seconds until I would meet my soulmate. I wondered what he would say to me, but my mind was elsewhere that day, and he remained a speechless figure in my head. My thoughts drfited to my classmates, who were dating regardless of the fact they knew they wouldn't end up together. Mother dated a lot of guys before dad, I thought,and instantly regretted it. Thinking about father was painful.

I focused on what little I had left of him. His face was faded in my memories after so many years, but I could still make out his booming, loud laugh and sparkling brown eyes. My mother was never the same after he passed away, and I never quite forgave her for being so weak when I needed her most. Her love and compassion disappeared as if it had been buried deep into the mud with her husband, and I quickly realised she no longer cared about me like she used to. We grew apart, until we were almost strangers. She dyed her skin and altered her hair colour, desperate to get rid of the woman she once was, desperate to forget the old memories she once treasured. She hardly looked at me, which I knew was because I reminded her of father. From my petite, curved nose to my widow's peak, I was my father's daughter. Mother didn't want to think about him, so she pushed me away, neglecting me and leaving me to grieve alone. Fortunately, the government gave Privilages to those who had suffered from a physically or mentally damaging incident, with every incident allowing for one Privilage. I decided to use mine to buy an apartment in the city centre. It wasn't very large; it only had one bedroom, and it was very cold at night, but it was mine, and it felt better than anything Mother could offer me.

As I pushed the digital drawing to the other side of the bed, I reached out for her phone. The smooth, clear glass panel came to life in my hand and shone brightly as I touched it, blinding me for a moment. I paused the audiobook and turned on my usual music playlist, drowning myself in thoughts again. As stupid as it may have sounded to my friends, I enjoyed being single. I was scared of relationships, and the burden another person could be on my life. I also felt under pressure to immediately accept my soulmate into my life, which was a terrifying concept. I couldn't comprehend walking into someone I knew nothing about, immeditely falling in love. It felt strange and humorous, like a children's story.

I thought about him, about what he would look like, and then realised I was being ridiculous. Looks were not everything, as I of all people should have known. Looks did not stop my mother from being distant and cruel. Looks did not help Gene score higher in his tests and qualify for a good career branch. Looks certainly did not help my father when he died.

My favourite song came on, but I switched it off. The words suddenly felt like meaningless mumbling in my ears, trying to distract me from reality. I swung my legs out of bed and stuffed my phone in the front pocket of my backpack, picking it up off the floor and slinging it onto my shoulder. I grabbed a pack of waterberries as I passed through the empty kitchen, then slipped on a pair of sneakers sprawled on the floor in the hall and left, locking the door behind me.

The sun shone brightly, which seemed strange, as I had already managed to do so much before it even began to rise. I winced as I felt the gentle breeze brushing against my raw skin. Vehicles shot past on the road, whirring gently, and tiny green birds sat on the branches of cherry blossom trees with their foliage shaped into perfect circles. The people of Edina enjoyed colour, and it showed. New buildings were white and uniform, but the older townhouses remaining from before the war were entirely coated with diverse graffiti, ranging from simple tags to huge, detailed murals. I was told in class that the city once looked very different - grey and full of old relics and buildings that looked like ancient palaces from story books, but almost none of the original architecture had survived. Only the very outskirts of town had hints of constructions suggesting the city was more than fifty years old. The centre was sleek and modern, sporting luminous billboards, solar panels and innovative technology in every crevice.

I strolled into the little cafe I liked to visit when I had school assignments to finish, walking up to the counter. The place hadn't changed since I'd last been there. Even the jar of tips hadn't budged an inch, though it was spotless. The customer in front of me seemed to be having a heated argument with the barista, who was looking flustered. I sighed, sensing it could take a while to be served, and looked up at the digital menu displayed on the wall. Having been there so often I had practically memorised it, but they always had a section of seasonal specials, which I observed absent-mindedly. The angry customer, a short, middle-aged man with very little hair, uttered a loud "This is ridiculous. I will be contacting your manager," before storming out of the shop, almost knocking me over as he strode past heavily. I looked at the barista, raising my eyebrows questionably. He looked dumbfounded, and I realised for the first time that he was new - I hadn't seen him before. He shrugged his shoulders at me and said "I told him we were out of caramel cappucinos."

I laughed, and rolled my eyes as if to say "Some people!" before going back to stare at the menu. Something about the barista made me feel uncomfortable, so I avoided looking at him for another minute or two. Eventually, he walked a little closer to me. "So," he said. "Decided what you're going to order?" I glanced up at him. "Yes, sorry." He smiled, distracting me for a second. I noticed he had dimples, something I found oddly interesting. Clearing my throat awkwardly, I replied "I'll have a slice of the raspberry cream sponge."

"Ooh, good choice," he replied as I handed him a few plastic discs. "I love that one." He bit the inside of his cheek and opened his mouh as if to say something, but seemed to think better of it and turned around, grabbing a plate and dropping the discs into the cash register. I made a "hmm" noise and wandered over to my usual table. I was the only customer in the cafe, which made me feel uncomfortable. I was unable to blend in without a crowd of people to distract others from my presence, which was unnerving as I generally avoided forced conversations with baristas who felt like it was their job to talk to customers who looked alone. I tried not to think about this, pulling out my phone to create a distraction for myself, and send a clear message of "I'm busy," in case the barista tried to approach her. I saw one missed call from Gene, and, taking another look at the barista, who was now cutting the cake, dialled his number in. He picked up almost immediately, his silhouette projected from my screen. "Eva, I ... I need to talk to you about something," he almost whispered, a note of worry in his voice. "One sec," I replied, peeking at the barista and plugging in my earphones. "Alright, what's up?"

The tone of his voice told me he was worried, and his miniature representative was biting its lip frantically. "I think I'm in love," he croaked. For a second, I stared at him in confusion. I knew that beng in a relationship before meeting your soulmate was not ideal, but it wasn't as bad as Gene was making it out to be. "Gene, that's wonderful! What' her name?" I tried to make my voice as encouraging as possible. "Well, that's the thing ... It's not a girl." My heart seemed to stop. This is bad, this is very bad, I thought. He can't be saying what I think he's saying. "What exactly do you mean?" I answered. My voice was wavering. "Eva," he croaked. "I'm in love with a guy."

I stood up, muting the call. "Keep the change," I told the barista, and ran out of the cafe, Gene's words still echoing in my ear. I'm in love with a guy. I sprinted down the road and into an alley, constantly looking behind me, my heart hammering in my chest. I leant against the wall, trying to gather my thoughts, and pulling my phone out again. "Gene? Gene, are you still there?" I said with false enthusiasm and confidence. "Yes," he answered. "Listen to me. You cannot tell anybody about what you've just told me. You understand that, don't you?" His hologram nodded. "I can't help you right now, but I can meet you and we can talk more privately. Is your apartment monitored?" He shook his head. "Good. I'll be there in an hour, let me just gather my things," I breathed, reassured slightly. I hung up and slid my phone back into my bag, raising it and adjusting my pace to my usual walking speed, emerging from the alley.

[UNFINISHED]

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