Soulmates (1) : two people fate decided were “meant” to be together.
Soulmates (2): a fresh load of bullshit.
Everyone knows the mysterious, intangible power of fate rules over our lives. From the earrings we lose to the contests we win to the jobs we get fired from to the love we find, fate is the master of all, and that’s just something we’ve chosen to accept as our inevitable ruler. No one knows how it works or why, but so many people are willing to hand their lives over to it because they believe it will make them happy. They conveniently forget that while fate can be benevolent, it can also be cruel. A lesson Hadley Arwen knew all too well.
Everyone said her parents, Cedelia and Nathan Arwen, were soulmates, and how could they not? They showed several classic signs. Running into one another everywhere, swearing they saw one another in their dreams before they met, discovering they’ve known each other longer than they thought they did, and other weird coincidental connections between their lives. When they finally found one another and started dating, they claimed that everything fell into place and they knew their love was going to last a lifetime… but they were wrong.
They started fighting when Hadley was nine-years-old, and not your “average married couple” fights. Fights where bitter words were hurled across the kitchen like cannon balls when Hadley pretended to be asleep. Fights where insults were thrown like knives at targets across the dinner table. Fights were harmless arguments turned the car into a thunderdome. Fights that should have ruined their marriage long before it did. They went on like this for years, always making excuses that the fights were “totally normal” and that “all soulmates do this,” and for a while, Hadley believed them, because like her fourth grade teacher said, “Some soulmates are better matches for one another than others. It’s very rare to find a pure connection, because when we get down to it, we’re all human. We’re not perfect.” But eventually, Hadley realized how wrong she was when she looked a little closer at the world around her.
She saw how her neighbors bickered with lemon-puckered faces as they walked out the door in the morning to go to work. She saw couples as they walked down the street hand in hand where one person’s gaze got caught on someone else as they walked by, a sparkling curiosity growing in their starved eyes. She saw a couple getting engaged with one of them almost looking disappointed as their partner got down on one knee. And worst of all, she once caught her fourth grade teacher, the one who convinced Hadley to still believe in “soulmates,” crying in her classroom before school after an argument over the phone with her soulmate. Later that day in class she listened as her teacher promised that not every soulmate relationship was perfect, but for the first time, Hadley could see she was trying to convince herself. That was the day Hadley distinctly remembered realizing that the concept of “soulmates” was nothing more than a folk tale the rest of the world tried to wish into existence.
Eventually, Hadley’s parents finally divorced and their lives fell into a disjointed peace. When Hadley went to live with each of her parents on a rotating schedule (Mom having one week, Dad having the next), they both confided in her that even though they were happier apart, their whole world felt lopsided, and every time Hadley tried to convince them that it wasn’t because they were “soulmates,” but because they just weren’t used to being divorced. She still told them that five years later.
Everything was fine until Hadley started seeing things that weren’t nearby in visions and hearing things that didn’t seem to come from anywhere at random when she was fourteen. She was very confused for a while and even talked to her counselor about it, but the only answer she got was that she had “one of those rare bonds” and that these strange occurrences were “soulmate links.” Which of course, Hadley was less than excited to hear. Every soulmate bond she’d ever seen was crumbling at the edges and swept under the rug, so clearly, fate didn’t know how to pair people together well.
Promptly, Hadley chose to ignore the fact that she had a “rare soulmate bond,” deciding instead that she would choose who her “soulmate” would be, not some mystical force with a bad track record. She was determined not to end up like her parents, who let fate decide their future, and every time a “vision” or momentary auditory disruption occurred, she closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and let it fade away. This worked for a few years, but once she got to college, she couldn’t ignore it any further. For the first few weeks, her usual “links” became more frequent. And they were joined by the sudden, startling appearance of notes decorating her hands and arms in something more potent than ink. Most startling of all, the handwriting wasn’t hers. After a couple months of this, she could only deduce one thing: her “soulmate” was close.
For the first time, Hadley began to take rigorous notes about her “links.” What she saw/heard, where she saw/heard it, when she saw/heard it, and who she was around when she saw/heard it. She filled pages and pages of a thick, new journal, with these observations and her theories, killing three pens in the process. When Hadley was about three quarters of the way through the book, she finally figured out who it was: Eleanor Ryan, the girl who sat behind her in her Intro English class.
It wasn’t really so surprising that Eleanor was Hadley’s “perfect match,” but she wasn’t exactly easy to spot. During class, Eleanor heard the same sounds as Hadley and saw the same, dull-colored classroom, so slight overlaps of their vision/sound intake were originally written off as sleep deprivation. As for the writing on her skin, Eleanor constantly wore sleeves long enough to cover her hands, and the one day she wore short sleeves to class was the day Hadley first marked her down as a candidate.
Although originally they never spoke much, they’d exchanged a brief hello every now and then before class started, and Hadley thought she was nice enough, but after she put the pieces together that they were supposed to be “soulmates,” Hadley made every attempt to avoid ever interacting with her again. She’d dodged her at coffee shops by ducking behind fake potted plants, in class by wearing headphones to give off the signal that she wasn’t interested in conversation, in the hall by walking faster through the swarm of people, at the library by diving behind shelves and stacks of books. This was not because she found Eleanor repulsive - really, she was quite pretty with wide, brown eyes and a tight-lipped smile - but because Hadley was afraid she would find out they were “meant to be” and want to start dating. Much to Hadley’s misery, when the class had a discussion about “soulmates” in literature, Eleanor gushed about how faithful she was in fate’s “wise” decisions and that she just knew the person “meant” for her was “absolutely perfect.”
Hadley felt awful every time she heard these things, because little did Eleanor know, she was stuck with Hadley, a cynical, independent thinker who didn’t believe in a notion as silly and unrealistic as two people the universe decided would never find a greater love in their lifetime, and that Hadley was doing everything she possibly could to keep them apart. Every time Eleanor dreamed of her “soulmate,” she was unaware of the fact that she’d never know them as such, or how close she was all along. But even so, Hadley still tried to keep her distance. It wasn’t Eleanor’s fault they were “destined” to be together, and Hadley didn’t want to see her disappointment first hand… though she sometimes wondered if it was kinder to rip the bandage off and tell her so she could move on from the fantastical notion, but before Hadley could make up her mind, it was already too late.
All it took was one bad morning. One morning where she was so tired she threw on the first shirt she grabbed out of her drawer, which of course was short sleeved, revealing the doodles in ink she didn’t own sprawling up her forearms in identical patterns to Eleanor’s. Hadley didn’t even notice at first, but about halfway through class, she felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned around halfway to see what was up and Eleanor handed her a note written on a little, folded scrap of paper, her cheeks red and eyes shining. Confused at first, Hadley opened it, wondering what it could possibly say since they hadn’t talked all week, and it read in excited looped writing, “Hey, look at your arm.” Her heart sunk when she tugged her sleeve up to her elbow and saw the words she’d been dreading to hear scribbled on her arm in fate’s version of Eleanor’s purple ink, “I think we’re soulmates.”