• 5 •
A/N: I believe in fate. Shawn Mendes’ new single, In My Blood, perfectly describes this book as a whole. Not this chapter, but the whole book. If one song could describe this book, it would be In My Blood, without a single doubt. And I wrote it PRIOR to when he released this at 12:00 a.m EST. It is absolutely amazing and I cried not once, not twice, but THRICE times. Please listen to it while reading this chapter.
– Anna’s POV –
Life is like…like a multiple choice question. Sometimes it’s not the actual question that confuses you, but the choices. Not only that, but it is harder to answer than it looks. And the more you think about it, the harder it becomes.
That’s my dilemma at the moment: confusion. I can’t decide what the hell is going on in my life. I don’t even want to understand. I just want to skip this “question” and move along.
Today is Sunday, the last day of the weekend before going back to my new school. Two days and eight hours ago, I discovered that my forever person had been near me at some point. And twenty-three hours ago, Ms. Morgan called the family practitioner to come in and give my mark a look.
I’m sitting in my room with my guitar, even though it scares me a little bit to hold it, playing around with the strings and different progressions. Hayley sits on the edge on her phone, tapping away, most likely texting someone. She said it’d be best to just wear a bra and a bra alone that wouldn’t touch my shoulder blade. And I listened to her advice once she told me she’d gone through it at sixteen with Nico.
My intuition was correct on the day I met him: They’re together. In fact, they’re more than together. They’re soulmates.
“That’s pretty,” she says perkily when I’m transferring from E to Am. I stop playing. “Did you write it?”
I shrug. “I’m just playing random chords.”
She thinks for a moment. “Have you ever played in front of anyone? Like performed or whatever? You seem, like, really skilled in this whole guitar and music industry.”
I shake my head “no.” “I don’t like playing in front of people.”
I shrug again. I don’t need to spare her any details of why I don’t perform. I’d tell her that it’s mine and mine only. She wouldn’t understand that, and then I’d have to elaborate on what I mean. Besides, it’s mine like I said. I don’t need to explain myself.
A ding sounds from her cellular device, and I raise a brow as she eagerly picks it up. A large grin takes full capacity on her lips as her sparkling eyes flit over the screen. Then her thumbs, without any hesitation whatsoever, write out a reply.
When she feels my suspicious stare on her, she quickly presses a button on the side of her phone that turns it off and smiles at me sheepishly. Her pearly whites show, but forcibly for once, as her cheeks burn a shade of crimson.
“Nico?” I ask flatly, the rhetorical reason lining my words. I already know the answer.
Hayley sighs with a faint smile – a real one – and slumps her shoulders a little more. The tension releases in a dreamy defeat. “He’s perfect, Anna.”
I almost gag. How can one so easily become so dependent on someone? Where’s the sense of standing on your own two feet? Don’t people understand that when you commit to a relationship, you’re only setting yourself up for a trial of pain? I’ve learned the hard way that I’m both untrusting of others and unloveable. The only person I can rely on is myself, and I’m content with that. I can’t imagine myself any other way.
“Nobody’s perfect,” I mumble, lying back onto my pillow, plucking at the top E string repeatedly.
“But that’s what makes him perfect,” Hayley shoots back. “His flaws and imperfections are something I embrace and celebrate. Without them, how would he be any different than any other boy?”
I sigh and roll my eyes, choosing not to respond. I’ll admit she has a point, but it’s not something I can understand. Just like she could never understand me and my brain, I’ll never quite comprehend her ways of positivity and love. It’s no surprise that that was her reply to me. Like I’ve said before: She’s a huge ball of sunshine that seems to shed light on everything and everyone.
“Are you excited to find your soulmate? Do you think it’ll be a boy or a girl? Ohhh – do you think they’ll be hot?” Hayley continues the conversation with fire and excitement blinding everything.
“Not really, not sure, and if they look anything like me, then probably not.” I answer each question, deciding to be a bland, rapid-fire Debbie-downer.
She rolls her eyes with a grin. “Don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re beautiful. And your soulmate is going to love you.”
I sigh. That’s easy for her to say. Nico is probably head-over-heels for Hayley. And she’s got the tan, slim body of a goddess from heaven. I haven’t been in her room yet, but from all the artsy hobbies she tells me she has, I’m sure it’s littered in trophies and awards and metals. Photography, art, etc. That’s what she likes to do, apparently. And I bet she’s good at it.
“I doubt I’ll find the person, anyway,” I say indifferently with a shrug. “Least I hope I don’t. I’m also hoping this doctor has some sort of permanent solution for this burning.” I let my hand snake over my shoulder just above my mark, careful not to touch it.
Hayley shakes her head. “You’re very self-doubting. Also, there is no permanent solution. To stop it, you’ve gotta touch them. You know that.”
I roll my eyes. “Whatever.”
I’ll wear the stupid cream Ms. Morgan gave me for the rest of my life if I have to.
Everything about this whole ordeal seems ridiculous. It’s cheesy and only causes destruction. I cause enough of that on my own. I mean, touching them to stop a burning sensation? That doesn’t seem the least bit frivolous to anyone?
“Anna! Hayley! Dr. Sloan is here!”
I sit up and set my guitar on the bedspread before standing up. “Thank God,” I mumble.
Hayley giggles a little bit. “Coming, Mom!”
Hayley and I leave my room, trotting down the stairs toward the kitchen. Who I assume is Dr. Sloan stands next to Ms. Morgan, seeming to be in a discussion of whatever sort. When I step in, they stop and look at us.
Dr. Sloan studies me with light silver eyes, her lips turning upward at the corners. She wears a white long coat, skin seemingly flawless apart from a few freckles scattered along her nose and underneath her eyes. A curtain of curled jet-black hair falls past her shoulders, ending right below her breasts. Her face looks to be around thirty-seven years old. There may be around four months until her birthday.
On the counter next to her is a small peach-colored box with two latches that conceal what’s inside. I can take a guess that it’s a special aiding or traveling kit for my specific case. For burning that cannot stop until I find my person.
I refuse to say the word “soulmate” anymore. Hayley’s used it to much and has romanticized it to cringe-worthy levels. It is the technical term, nonetheless, but I will not use it. It makes me wince just thinking about it.
“Hello, Anna,” Dr. Sloan introduces. “How are you feeling?”
“Scorching,” I reply dully.
She raises a brow. “That bad?”
I shrug. I have a high pain tolerance. Extremely high. So yes, I would know. But she doesn’t need to know that I know.
“Alright, well lemme see,” she says, gesturing for me to come closer to her. I do as she says and walk over, turning around.
Hayley gives me a smile and a thumbs-up before leaving, Ms. Morgan trailing behind. They head out of the kitchen and toward the living room, leaving me and the doctor alone.
She doesn’t say anything, and doesn’t even ask me any questions. Although I find it strange that she doesn’t, I don’t complain or address it. I don’t mind silence at all.
I feel different cold substances touch my shoulder gently. It’s incredibly sensitive, but soon it begins to numb. Then all I can feel is cold temperatures rising onto my mark. It’s relieving.
It takes around twenty-three minutes and fifteen seconds for her to stop whatever treatment she was doing, and then she packs up the kit. I turn around, waiting for her to say something. Anything. How to care for it, how to make it feel like she just did on my own.
But her lips have formed themselves into a thin line, and biggest freckle on her face crinkles due to her eyebrows dipping. My eyes study her face, and I put my enhanced observing skills to use. Her eyes have narrowed slightly and her pupils have slightly dilated, a sign of fear. I want to reach out and feel her pulse for even the smallest un-patterned beat, but that would be stepping over the line. Her eyes are anywhere but on me as she puts things away, hands at work. But she shouldn’t be taking so long to put things away.
I cross my arms. “Is something wrong, Dr. Sloan?” I question bitterly. If something is wrong with my mark, I need to know.
Her silver orbs nervously flicker up to my face, lips parted so a thin line of the black abyss of her mouth can be seen. Her chin quivers – just barely – and the small black circles in her eyes are changing in diameter time and time again.
“No,” she says. She’s being honest. “I mean, nothing is wrong with your tattoo…it’ll be fine with the proper creams and drug. It’s just…”
“What?” Her hesitance is annoying, and I find myself resisting a snappy tongue. This is my body. She doesn’t need to worry about anything. It’s none of her concern. Maybe her business, but not her concern.
Dr. Sloan takes a deep breath and tucks a piece of hair behind her ear. She picks up her little medical kit, leaving a three-inch-tall white bottle for me on the counter, supposedly to stop the burning. Next to it, is the cream she used to numb and cool my mark instantly.
Slowly, she rests her hand on my right shoulder, on the one that isn’t containing a devil’s wing on the back of it. “I…know who he is.”
I shrug her hand off, not enjoying someone else’s touch on my body. “What?” I repeat, this time in a shocked and surprisingly irritated tone.
Dr. Sloan emits a breath. I can hear it shake violently when she does so. Her heart rate must be skyrocketing.
“He’s…your soulmate is my son.”
I narrow my eyes at her, my eyebrows meeting each other in the middle, where I’m creasing them in frustration. “How do you know that? You can’t know.”
Dr. Sloan nods. “I do know. He has a wing on his right shoulder blade. It is symmetrical to yours.”
I shake my head, gripping onto the side of the counter in disbelief. I squeeze it until my knuckles turn white. Then I snap my eyes up to meet straight through hers. “No.”
She widens her eyes. “No? But aren’t you excited to know that you can meet him?”
“No,” I bite harshly. “Now get out.”
“Anna, you don’t need this medicine. I can bring him over, or you can come to my house, and all you need to do is shake his hand. Just any form of contact can make the burning go away.”
“I said: Get. Out,” I repeat, taking a threatening step closer. “I don’t need anyone. I’m alone and will always be alone.”
Dr. Sloan is left speechless. I certainly don’t tower over her, but she only has a good inch on me. In this moment, I’m grateful for that. Because if she were any taller, she most likely wouldn’t be too scared of me.
But I want her to be scared of me. I want her to leave. The sooner she goes, the sooner that piece of news follows with her. It’s too much of a shock, I suppose. I’m not ready to hear it. It’s too life-changing, and I don’t want it. I’ve had enough traumatic changes in my life.
Dr. Sloan seems to be unable to form any English words. She opens and closes her mouth, a fish out of water looking for air. Except her oxygen is compatible human language. And obviously, she’s suffocating.
Eventually she gives up and nods, looking away and turning to go. I follow her to the front door, making sure she finds her way out. She stops just outside and looks back to me.
“I know what you’ve gone through. I’ve seen the files. And my son is a kind boy at heart. He could help you heal.” She pauses, and then, “I think he needs – wants – you to help heal him too.”
I roll my eyes. How stupid of her.
“No one wants me,” I growl. “Now goodbye, Dr. Sloan.”
Before she can say anything else to continue this moment, I shut the door in her face, much like I did to Hayley when I first got here a few days ago. I breathe out and stare at a blank space on the wall, leaning against the door.
No one. Not one person on this earth, will ever want me.
I FREAKING LOVE SHAWN MENDES. #CryingAboutInMyBlood ?❤️