Shake It Up
You used to wonder why your mother made you cover your soul-mark. It seemed ridiculous! Why wouldn't you want the world to know who your other half was? The moment you learned what the letters on your wrist meant – the name of your one, true love – you wanted to scream out his name from the rooftops. And wouldn't this mean you would find him faster? But your mother explained that many people never found their soulmates and usually fell in love with someone else. Keeping your soulmate's name a secret made it easier for you and your non-soulmate partner to cope and live happily. Your mark, she told you, was a very private thing, and that you should never feel pressured to show someone, nor should you pressure anyone to show you theirs. In fact, some people even chose to remove their soul-mark, and therefore, cut off their connection with their soulmate; for many, it was easier to love someone who wasn't their perfect match if they got rid of the bond such a match would come with. Apparently, though, the procedure was quite painful for both parties. When you were old enough, you read up about it on the internet, where people described it as one of the most horrible hurts they had ever experienced – especially for those who were not aware their soulmate was removing his or her mark – likening it to the feeling of having a limb ripped off, without any anesthesia or painkillers.
You swore to yourself that you would never get rid of your mark; you would never, ever want to do that to your soulmate (or anyone, at that), even if you didn't end up finding him – though you tried not to think about not finding him. But, to appease your mother and society, you wore the thick bracelets that everyone else wore when you were out in public. In the safety of your room, however, you would stare at his name, tracing his letters and praying that someday, you would be able to show him your wrist with his name on it, and he would show you his wrist with your name on it, and you would smile shyly at each other and pledge your life to each other and live happily ever after. That was the hope, anyways.
Now you were twenty-two years old, and you were staring at your soulmate as he asked you if you thought it would be a good idea for him to remove his soul-mark. Of course, he wasn't heartless. He couldn't be – he was your soulmate after all. He simply didn't know that you were his soulmate, or that he was yours, because you, in a moment of utter foolishness, had made a split-second decision that ruined your life. Two years before, you, freshly out of high school, with your young face bright and your mind vulnerable, had been unceremoniously dumped on your new college campus by your parents. It was the start of your new life!
As your mother's car left you, turning around the road's bend, you felt a surge of giddiness rise in you. Sure, you were nervous, and a bit sad that a huge part of who you had been was gone, but you had mourned your childhood weeks ago, with all your high school friends during the seemingly endless graduation parties you attended. Today, though, was a fresh start. Today, you thought, taking in a deep breath and turning to face your dorm, was your rebirth. You kind of liked that word. Rebirth. It felt fitting. And with that word at the forefront of your mind, you physically ran into who would be your first real friend in college. After some awkward laughter, she introduced herself to you as Dina Garcia, and then she asked you your name. A simple question, really. You should have just said your name – your name that you had answered to your whole life, and your name that was on the wrist of your soulmate. But, with your veins buzzing and your head swimming with excitement, you wanted to make the rebirth you felt inside tangible, and so you proclaimed that your name was Elizabeth – which was not your name at all. It was your middle name. Your name was Cecelia Elizabeth Jones, or just CeCe Jones, as it would appear on most legal documents and your soulmate's wrist. But now your name was Elizabeth Jones to Dina, and then to everyone you would meet in college. You never thought to tell them that you were just going by your middle name. It wouldn't matter – not really, until it did matter and then it was too, too late.
His name – your soulmate's name – was Gunther Hessenheffer, and you met him four years later at a Christmas party you, Dina, and Deuce were throwing. You were sipping punch when you first saw him.
"Hi," you said politely, "I'm Elizabeth."
He smiled and introduced himself to you, saying, "Ah, one of the hostesses this evening. Nice to meet you. I'm Gunther Hessenheffer," and then you nearly fainted. You would have, had it not been for the girl on his arm – his girlfriend of three years – Rocky Blue, she informed you pleasantly. Her name was not on his wrist, thank you very much. But you didn't want to ruin Rocky's Christmas, and so you said nothing, and only smiled a little too brightly at him (your soulmate!) and continued to enjoy the party as if you had not just found the love of your life. You could tell him tomorrow. Or the next day. Or the next! You had forever together, anyways.
Oh, he was handsome. And he had beautiful, pale, almost translucent, skin. And such kind eyes! They twinkled just right when he smiled, and you could tell he had a penchant for getting into mischief. His accent was enchanting, making you wonder where he was from. So mysterious! And his fashion sense – good Lord, it was impeccable. The sequins and glitter he adorned shimmered and shined just right under the harsh light of your cheap apartment. And of course, his name. His name! It was rather melodic to the ear, flowing out of the mouth so easily.
You couldn't sleep that night – you were too excited. You weren't going to tell anyone – not until he knew, at least. You would tell him that your name was Cecelia Elizabeth Jones and that his name was on your wrist, and wouldn't he check if yours was on his? And he would and he would softly exhale and look up at you with tears in his eyes and would whisper "Finally. After all these years – finally." Then you could take your sweet time telling everyone you ever met that you had done it. You had found him. You had always known you would in your heart, despite your mother's concerned talks with you when you were younger, begging you to give someone else a chance. Why settle for someone who wasn't your perfect match when you could have that someone? You had a blueprint right to him. And here he was – falling right into your lap. You could practically jump for joy.
The next day came, but it wasn't the right time. It was still the Christmas season, and Rocky deserved a good holiday. She was very nice, as far as you could tell. Gunther was dating her, after all, so she couldn't be that bad (you weren't the jealous type when it came to your soulmate, it seemed. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that your name was permanently tattooed on her boyfriend's body, and his was on yours, but that's just a thought). You went home for winter break, still holding in the news. Then school began again, and you didn't see him for a while. That was alright. You'd see him eventually. And you were right.
You heard him before you saw him. It was February, and you were studying in a courtyard in the middle of campus.
"Elizabeth! Hey, Elizabeth!"
Your heart skipped a beat. You would remember his voice from anywhere. You had replayed the single conversation you had had with him over and over (he wouldn't remember the exchange, understandably, so you would have to remember it for him, so that you could one day tell the story at your wedding and to your kids. You were considerate like that). It did sound a little wrong, though, to have him call you Elizabeth. You'd straighten that up in just a few minutes, though, and then he'd be sweeping you up in his arms and repeating "CeCe, CeCe, CeCe," over and over. You smiled a bit to yourself, and then turned nonchalantly to see him running towards you, blonde hair bouncing in the wind. You waited until he was close enough, and then you said,
"Hey. Gunther, right?" as if you hadn't seen his name on your skin every single day for the past twenty-two years of your life.
He grinned and scratched the back of his head, catching his breath. "That's me. I was wondering if I could talk to you about something really quickly."
He bit his lip, almost nervously, and bounced from foot to foot. Cutie, you thought. You smiled warmly and gestured at the bench across from you.
"Sure. What's up?" (You were truly an Oscar-winning actress with such casualness!)
He sat down and fidgeted with his hands briefly. "So, um. This is kind of personal and weird for me to ask you, since we don't know each other all that well –" (oh, we will, you thought) " – but I heard from Deuce that you were sort of an expert on soulmates, and I just wanted to see what your thoughts were on what I'm going through."
Your eyes widened. It was widely known that you were passionate about soulmates and soul-bonds (more like obsessed), but did he know that you were soulmates? How could he? You literally had not told anyone in college your first name. He didn't even know your last name, so he couldn't suspect – could he? Maybe your bond ran deeper than most soul-bonds. There had been no recorded cases of people just "knowing" they had found their soulmates without checking the names, but maybe –
"I proposed to Rocky yesterday, and she said yes, thank goodness, though I knew she was going to say yes, we've been planning on getting married right out of college and – you remember Rocky, don't you? From the party?" He was now staring curiously at you, as your expression had gone completely blank after his first sentence. Perhaps he thought you didn't remember who Rocky was; they were just two random people you had met in his mind.
No, instead, your heart had just stopped beating. And your brain was not comprehending. Had your soulmate just told you that he was marrying someone else? That was impossible. Laughable. Without even realizing it, your head was nodding that yes, you remembered Rocky, and your mouth was saying congratulations, and wouldn't he continue on with his question? He smiled back more confidently.
"Right, cool, so, um. This is weird to tell someone I barely know, but, well. Rocky isn't my soulmate. Which is fine! I'm so totally cool with that. It's just… I want to be the best husband to her as possible." He took a deep breath as your heart sank lower and lower. "And I don't think I can do that with another woman's name on my wrist. So, I'm thinking about getting my soul-mark removed. But I don't really know if that's the right thing to do, so I thought I'd ask an expert on soul-marks and all-things soulmate!" He quirked his lips up lopsidedly, and your heart hit your stomach it was so low.
You stared at your soulmate for a few seconds, hoping your brain would catch up to the events unfolding and would stop yelling at you to tell him, tell him now and everything will be okay!
"You want my advice?" was the best you could come up with. "My advice on whether you should remove your soul-mark or not?"
He gave you a quick shrug and pushed his hair back over his head. "Deuce speaks very highly of your advisory skills – and your knowledge of soulmates."
Miraculously, you let out a short laugh at that. How could you laugh at a time like this? You look at the beautiful boy in front of you and the hopeful expression etched on every corner of his face.
"Well," you begin slowly, "the first thing you have to know is that removing a soul-mark is very painful. For you and your soulmate." Your voice didn't even catch on the last word. Seriously. You could be an actress.
He was already nodding along. "I've read up on it, but I would be willing to go through it – for Rocky. I'm more worried about my soulmate, since it would hurt for her too. And she wouldn't even know I was about to do it." He bit his lip and broke his gaze away from you. "Is that… awful and selfish of me to still want to do it anyways? Wouldn't she want what's best for me?"
Don't cry, don't cry, don't cry. "Would it?" you ask quietly, "Would it be what's best for you? Marrying someone who isn't your soulmate – your perfect match? Wouldn't she be what's best for you?"
But before you are even finished speaking, he is shaking his head vehemently. "No, no. I don't want to belittle your beliefs or anything, but soulmates… the idea of soulmates is so conceptual… and elusive. I even know that it's rare to find your soulmate, and I don't know jack shit about soul-bonds or whatever. But what I do know is that, what I have with Rocky? It's real. And she is what's best for me – I know it."
He ends this passionate declaration standing up straighter in his seat, and you know it's hopeless, you know, but you have to try, you have to, and so you say, "Okay, alright, that's fine. I'm – I'm not offended. I think she would be okay with the pain, if she truly was your soulmate. But you should also know that removing your soul-mark – it's permanent. You can never attain that level of connection with someone again. Are you so sure of your decision that you would be willing to take that risk with Rocky?"
To your surprise, Gunther laughs at your question. "Risk?" he repeats, voice astounded. "There is no risk in marrying Rocky."
At this, you are angry. You are furious. How dare he? How could he say that, when he had never met his soulmate? Well, he had, but he didn't know it. Was this soul-bond nothing to him?
"Of course there's a risk!" you snap at him, wiping the grin off his face. "What if you find your soulmate tomorrow? What if – what if she's sitting right in front of you. What if I'm your soulmate, and you find out right now – what would you do then?"
He looks at you steadily, and when you meet his eyes you know that whatever he's about to say, it is the truest thing he'll ever say. "I would apologize for the excruciating pain you would be about to go through, and then I would marry Rocky. I love her. I am in love with Rocky, and no name on my arm will ever change that."
And with those words, your heart breaks. You have lost him. You never had him, it seems. So, you gather what pieces of your heart you can, and you muster up a tired smile. "Well, Gunther, I think you know what you want to do. You don't need me to tell you that."
He chuckles at that and stands, shoving his hands in his pockets. "Thank you for listening, Elizabeth. It means a lot."
You stare at him for a beat. "Actually," you say, letting your exhaustion peek through, "it's CeCe. Elizabeth's my middle name."
He starts at that, and then shakes his head, smiling. "What a weird coincidence. My soulmate's name is CeCe. Guess we were meant to have this conversation." He holds out his hand for you to shake, and you take it. With one last grin at you, he turns and leaves you.
As he walks away, shoulders high and ready to face the future with the love of his life, you slump to the ground, clutching your wrist to your chest. Sitting there, feeling more cold than you've ever felt, you finally understand why your mother told you to cover your soul-mark. It was to protect you. From pain and heartbreak and whatever this awful, awful feeling was. You close your eyes tighter and tighter and tighter and try to forget his face. But how can you? How can you ever forget Gunther Hessenheffer?