To say that Astrid Hofferson had her most unfortunate, atrocious weekend would be a great understatement. And naturally, followed Monday, which by the way things were going on, was already proving to be worse for her.
And it was all because of one person at the center of it all.
Monday was supposed to be one of those rare bright days, an exceptionally sunny one where the sky was all blue and the clouds were all white not a hint of any possible downpour. Such days were supposed to be the perfect day for training, especially with upcoming Inter High Tennis Championship.
Unfortunately, bright days also meant even hotter sun, and the even hotter sun rays didn't really help clear Astrid's hot head and foul temper. It also didn't help that her muscles were twinging with soreness, her arms were feeling stretched like rubber, and her legs felt so stiff as if they were petrified.
It was nothing she couldn't handle though. Astrid Hofferson wasn't known as 'The Valkyrie' of the Tennis court for nothing.
What Astrid couldn't handle, was not being in control of everything. Especially, when it involved her own thoughts and feeling. She absolutely loathed every second of it.
When was the last time Astrid felt this anxious? Her sweaty palms felt slimy, the pits of her stomach were pure acid, and every part of her felt like screaming colors with dread.
This wasn't like her at all, She thought.
Astrid quickly brushed those thoughts, again. She needed her head on the game. Practice match or not, Astrid Hofferson couldn't lose a Tennis game.
Astrid shook her hands to get rid of the nerves and took a deep breath to gather her focus. She picked up a Tennis ball from her pocket; the green ball felt weirdly out of place in her sweaty palm as she dribbled it a couple of times, but threw it in the air anyway. She stroke her arm forward, swearing as her racket almost slipped from her grip, and messed her perfectly timed serve.
"Double Fault!" A student umpire called, and everyone on the court paused and gave Astrid a double take.
Astrid could perfectly read their thoughts and confusion: Double Fault!? Astrid Hofferson didn't just score a Double Fault, did she?
"Fuck," Astrid swore, slamming her racket on the floor.
What the hell was wrong with her ... except she was perfectly aware of what was wrong, or rather, the culprit behind all of these.
Her soul mark, or rather the name behind it. Astrid had been sure that her soul mark was always covered in layers of skin colored concealer, on top the skin colored permanent tattoo, and always wrapped it on a bandage, or covered it with whatever available accessory with the intention of hiding it from the world, herself included.
For the past two days, ever since Friday, since that economic class, Astrid hadn't got a decent day. Yes, decent—that was all she wanted. All because of her damned soul mark. Why was it acting this way? Her bandage felt heavy on her left forearm as if she had been wearing a cast. And her soul mark had been pulsing all day, which had been getting worse every minute, making it impossible for Astrid to focus on anything.
This morning, Astrid was abruptly awoken when she felt a sudden sharp throbbing pain on her left forearm; the very same spot of her soul mark. She tried to ignore it at the beginning, but the throbbing pain only persisted and worsened, then the throbbing spread to her whole arm, and the pain escalated from throbbing to an arm-ripping sensation.
The pain became unbearable for Astrid. So after many years of trying to deny it's existence, Astrid ripped the tightly wrapped bandage, fully unprepared to see her soul mark fully unconcealed, untattooed. There it was her soul mark, with the dimly glowing runes even greener than she remembered, imprinting the name of her soul mate: Hiccup Haddock.
How many years had it been since Astrid saw her soul mark bare? It felt exactly the first time she laid her eyes on it. The throbbing pain vanished, replaced by the comfortable feel of it beating in resonance with her heartbeat.
She glared at it, or at least, tried glaring at it, but she didn't had it in her being to do it whole-heartedly.
(Unconsciously, she felt assured and safe staring at it blankly.)
She almost felt it respond to her: Long time no see. As if her soul mark tried to mock her, Reminded her that no tattoos or concealer would ever get rid of it. Him.
Memories, as bittersweet they were, everything came back to her, accompanied by a tight unwanted feeling in her chest that shook her to her very core.
Hiccup Haddock, her soul mate, was the culprit. The reason Astrid wasn't in control of herself right now.
Astrid had no idea how long had she spaced out, that she forgot being in the middle of a practice match until her partner called her out, breaking her trance.
"What the hell Astrid? Double Fault?" The said raven girl walked over her side of the court, stopped in front of her, and continued speaking." And what's up with you spacing out lately—and don't you dare 'I'm fine me' because I know you're not—and this is not just about Tennis practice."
Heather ... Of course, she'd know. Her best friend would have felt that something was off with Astrid, that fact shouldn't surprise her anymore, but it still did.
Heather like Astrid was a sharp, cunning, woman only with a deceptive side. Deceptive she was, Astrid couldn't really fault her for that; some people were just too stupid to figure Heather out. Mostly men... No—not men. Boys who couldn't get the idea that Heather wasn't flirting, or interested with them. But if they were so stupid and persistent—her best friend might as well make take advantage of it. Unlike Astrid who would gladly just send them off to the infirmary with a black eye and broken nose.
"Really, what's gotten into you," Her best friend asked again.
"Seriously Heather, I'm fine."
"No, you're not-"
Astrid raised her arms. "Okay okay... I'm not fine—just thinking about the hellish economics project, that's all okay?" It wasn't a lie, but it wasn't the whole truth either.
Of course, Heather didn't buy it and had to comment. "Unless... It isn't really the economics project you're worried about, but, to whom you got paired with. So what about it? It's not like he's your secret soul mate or—" Astrid's hand instinctively clutched her left forearm.
Shit. Why did Astrid had to like that? Why did she panic and did the most obvious thing trying to physically hide her soul mark which was almost as good as showing it.
Heather paused, her brows raised assessingly at her before she frowned then shrugged. "Relax, I'm just messing with you, Astrid."
Astrid never felt more relieved that Heather didn't try to push with the topic any further. From her personal experience, Astrid knew very well that Heather had a talent getting people to spill their guts. And after she got you to speak, She will most likely try snooping or get herself involved and try to 'help fix things, which was the reason behind 90% of their fights.
Yet, Astrid's intuition told her that Heather probably knew, or, at the very least, Heather probably got the right idea but not the whole thing—Not yet.
"Really, I'm fine though. It's just that... stuff, I– you know it." Astrid raised her shoulders to complete the sentence.
"I don't know," Heather said. And yet she had that look, it didn't matter if she actually knew or not. Because she definitely knew now, especially, with the way Astrid had just reacted. Heather was pretending to act ignorant.
"What I do know though—" Heather crossed her arms. "—is that you're not really any use practicing with me when you're like that." Heather gestured to all of her. "You might as well skip today's practice–"
Astrid was about to protest, but Heather seemed to read her mind. "–The Inter-High is in two-weeks, not tomorrow. Just take it easy today and, you know... take a hot shower to clear your head."
"You're right," Astrid sighed.
"Of course I am. Now get the hell out of here, and we can have our rematch when you're all better." Heather said, shooing her away.
Astrid didn't argue. She picked up the racket that she threw earlier before she headed to the bleachers to gather her the rest of her things. and finally headed back to the locker room.
"Oh! And Astrid!" Heather called. Astrid turned around to face her. "If you ever need someone to talk to, I'm always available okay?"
Astrid smiled to her best friend, and nodded in thanks before she headed back to the locker room.
Heather was right, again. Astrid thought.
Astrid hadn't really got the time and opportunity to clear her head, and she needed to clear it soon. Her mind would often wander off, but she would quickly catch herself spacing out, and brush it off. The whole mind wandering thing had been getting worse, It was starting to have an effect on her. It already cost her skipping a training session with Heather earlier, and it was just the beginning.
She needed to clear her head... No, She have to clear her head.
Normally, as soon as she stepped on the field, her body and mind will put everything behind her, and focus on winning the game. But for some reason, Tennis didn't seem to work on clearing her head, and if Tennis didn't work, she was just uselessly wasting time and energy tiring herself out. She needed to take a break and a hot shower.
As soon as the hot water touched her skin, her body started showering in auto-pilot, her mind drifted, and her consciousness gone to a memory trip.
Last Friday, economics project. What were the odds that in her last year, the only academic project left for her high school career before she could finally move on to the next part of her life, she got paired with the person she'd tried to avoid whole high school?
His hopeful face when he looked at her, then their eyes met, and it all changed, there was something different in it his gaze that pierced her soul, even now Astrid could still feel it, it was still fresh in her mind.
And something about it felt just right.
Nono, she was simply caught off guard. She was not reverting back to her old self—her naive self.
Those were the days, Hiccup and Astrid used to hang out. Come to think of it, they were best friends back then, weren't they?
Another guilty feeling crept up to her.
No. Don't feel guilty. That was before she knew what having a soul mate meant for her future, for herself, for her dreams.
Astrid remembered the first time she got her soul mark. It happened to be the same day she first got her monthly visitor. Astrid couldn't pinpoint the exact moment, time, or date she got her soul mark, but she remembered it being around the vacation just before high school, she was around twelve-thirteen years old.
Just like earlier today, Astrid had woken up to a foreign sensation; that was when she found Hiccup's name, imprinted on her left forearm, which glowed in the most vibrant green colors she ever saw in her life.
God knew how happy she had felt that moment, She somehow managed not to wake up the whole Hofferson household by squealing and screaming at her pillow, knowing that her soul mate was; Of all people, her best friend, who, at that time, happened to be her secret crush—Hiccup Haddock. Not some random stranger, or worse Snotlout.
Astrid felt like she could take on the whole world that moment.
Astrid unconsciously smiled at the bittersweet memory.
For the first couple of days, Astrid managed to keep her soul mark a secret. She had no intentions of keeping it that way for long. It was something new, and she just wanted to enjoy it all for herself.
To her mother though, Astrid knew it was impossible to keep anything from that woman, but she would still try—it was probably worth the shot. The next time her mother and she talked; Astrid had been very subtle on fishing for stories, advice about love and soul mates.
She could remember how her mother had smiled, looked at her knowingly, and said. "My dear lass, already at that age."
Her mother, much to older woman's delight had immediately begun lecturing her about being a woman; its duties, responsibilities, and most of all sacrifices she would have to take for her loved ones.
Sacrifices? Astrid had been confused. Why would she be the one who needed to make sacrifices... It didn't seem fair to her.
Then her mother had asked what were her dreams. Astrid answered without hesitation; A doctor. Astrid always knew what she wanted to be, ever since the day they lost Uncle Finn on an accident, she'd been there to witness it, and never felt more useless being there and not being able to act.
Her mother didn't exactly tell her to stop pursuing it, Her mother would never, but Astrid would never forget how the next words from her mother made her realize things.
The exact words her mother had said to her were:
"Oh dear, I know that you still blame yourself for your Uncle Finn's death. But dear, one day you're going to meet your soul mate, and is it really that important for you? More than your future soul mate, or family. You know how hard it is to be a doctor. It's not just for anybody. I just want you to think of that."
Astrid never felt more suffocated by anything but those words. She understood what her mother tried to tell her; Duties, Responsibilities, and most of all Sacrifices. Sacrifices.
Astrid understood what her mother tried to tell her. The moment she met her soul mate. Everything will change. It wasn't just about her life anymore. Everything. Her actions, decisions wasn't hers alone but will also affect her other half —her soul mate. And when the time comes, Her dreams would be one of those actions and decisions that she would have to talk, and maybe even reconsider with her soul mate, After all, it wasn't just her life anymore.
But what about own her dreams, her plans to become a doctor. Though Astrid hadn't fully grasped the whole idea, she was smart for her age, and she was already aware of how long it would take her to get to her dreams. She would be almost at the age of thirty—if not thirty—before she graduated and get a liscense.
'How about her future soul mate, or her future married life? 'That was what her mother had tried to tell her.
Astrid had tried to voice her opinion, but her mother only hushed her as the older woman continued on her lecture. That was the first time she'd looked with disappointment to the woman she'd admired all her life.
Perhaps, her mother had been right, things did change. Everything changed for her.
Those words were like seeds planted to her heart, that eventually grew, and grew until it changed her heart.
Why couldn't Astrid be just herself? She didn't want her future to be defined by her soul mate. Not Hiccup, not even if it was Brad Pitt or Christopher Hemsworth... or anyone at all.
Astrid was her own person—she didn't need a damned half-shared soul—and she was resolved to fight her own share of it, or throw the other half if it meant being herself.
From that moment, for her dream—not a dream. A Goal, her future. Astrid became even more competitive. She worked even harder, grinded more...
Astrid had felt an urgent need and desire to become independent, that way she didn't need to rely on anyone, not her mother or her soul mate. That way, they couldn't disagree with her choices. Not when Astrid took high school very seriously, and she'd become a scholar not just by playing on the Tennis team, but also from her outstanding academic performance.
Then there was Hiccup, her very soul mate. It was all his fault. Astrid thought, irrationally blamed it all on him.
Astrid didn't plan on telling Hiccup being her soul mate anymore. Why would she? She was her own person, as much as he was his own.
Hiccup at that time had been a walking disaster, causing enough troubles for them. And God knew, how many detentions Astrid had to endure in her whole middle school life, because of how many times she got into fights and stood up for him.
That was when she made a choice, her goals or friendship with him. It was him or her; she chose her. She couldn't risk getting to any more trouble, not when it may affect not only her academic performance or scholarship, but her dreams. Astrid had no choice but avoid him since then. It was difficult, many times she just craved his company, and wanted to drop everything and go back to their clubhouse.
Then everything just sort of fell into a routine, and high school years flew by. And now she was now eighteen, on her senior year. Last year of high school. Over the high school years, Astrid had desensitized herself with the whole idea, the concept of soul mate. In fact, she had completely forgotten about it... Completely forgotten about Hiccup Haddock.
Until now. Last Friday. Eco Project.
Why did it feel like Astrid was resetting; It was like she twelve or thirteen again, except she was eighteen—and she was supposed to be way over all these feelings. But it was back, ramming at her at full force. She just knew it had to be something soul mate related.
A thought struck her head; Could it be possible that Hiccup knew?
Everything would make sense... If Hiccup got his own soul mark...
It didn't matter, She wasn't seriously regretting her decisions, was she? Astrid brushed off the thought before it could fester in her mind.
Astrid didn't need this now. She didn't need all those memories, accompanied by feelings that were starting to resurface, threatening to take control of her. Her soul.
Astrid had multiple offers from several universities that offered medical courses, and she could leave Berk, and finish what she started.
But why was she feeling this... anxious, disturbed, guilt-ridden, or whole lot of foreign feelings she couldn't comprehend. Worse a part of her could also feel... Happiness? Hope? Relief?
Maybe this was her chance for redemption—No... this wasn't going to be any different from any other obstacles. This was going to be just another Hiccup.
By the time her mind regained conscious control of her auto-piloting body, Astrid just got finished getting dressed and was on her way to her locker. Her eyes landed on her soul mark, to make sure it was safely bandaged. As soon as she arrived at her locker, Astrid was surprised to see Heather sitting on the metal bench in front of her locker, already dressed and was braiding her hair.
Had she really been thinking for that long, Astrid mentally questioned.
"Oh look, who's finally here," Her best friend greeted. "I was starting to think you were never leaving the shower, and maybe you fainted or something."
"I do not faint," Astrid snorted.
"Yeah, I know, That's why I'm sitting here, you don't see me dragging an unconscious Astrid Hofferson out of the shower, do you?" Heather jested, then continued braiding. "So feel any better?"
"Maybe," Astrid said, raising her shoulders. "I have to admit, hot shower works wonders—Did I really shower that long? How long?"
"An hour and a half?" Heather shrugged.
"Oh god," Astrid facepalmed, "was I really out for that long?"
"You tell me—better have a brilliant excuse if you're not telling me about what's gotten into that pretty blonde head of yours."
Astrid swallowed. "I will, I promise... just need more time."
"For Frigga's sake, Astrid," Heather swore. "You're telling you haven't had enough time to think. I'm starting to think that maybe this all about your soul mate after all–"
"–It is," Astrid answered.
A pregnant pause followed, Astrid sat down beside her best and proceeded to braid her own hair.
After five minutes, Heather spoke up, broking the silence. " So... I'm guessing it's complicated."
Astrid let out a sigh, "How I wish I could settle for 'complicated'."
Astrid carefully untied the bandage in her left forearm, feeling an unusual lightness spread on her chest as the bandage fell from her forearm, and revealed her soul mark for Heather to see.
Her best friend reaction didn't disappoint. Astrid didn't miss the way Heather's expression darkened as Heather's sharp eyes landed on her soul mark—Astrid felt guilt and shame swallow her whole.
"So what's your plan... obviously it's not Eret."
Oh god, did Heather really had to go there? Astrid thought. She'd been trying to avoid thinking about the topic. Eret. Her boyfriend—who was being unreasonably demanding lately. And not to mention how things weren't going well between them, not for a while now, and got worse ever since she turned eighteen.
And you get the idea what his demand was: Sex. Or her Virginity. Her virginity was something she wasn't ready to give up yet.
It's just sex. It's nothing special. Everyone else in their age was getting there, and they had a reputation to uphold.
(A nagging thought subconsciously entered her brain. It was supposed to be for her soul mate.)
Astrid sighed. "I had a plan. This wasn't supposed to happen–"
"–What do you mean you 'had' a plan... for how long did you know about this—and does Eret even know about this, is he dating you not knowing he's not your soul mat–"
"–It's all fucked up, okay!" Astrid didn't mean to raise her voice. "I told you, that's why I need more time to think—and why are you even taking his sides?"
Astrid stood up and started pacing. She felt her cellphone vibrate in her pocket. She debated on answering or ignoring it but decided on the latter. Astrid immediately regretted that decision as soon as she saw the name on her phone.
Astrid swore under her breathe, "And speaking of the devil..." She flashed Heather her cellphone,"–I need to be in the cafeteria, seems ASAP."
Her best friend read the message, her eyes widening and asked. "So... If he's acting like that then he really has no idea then?" It struck Astrid that there was a bit hopeful tone in Heather's voice.
"It might not even get to that," Astrid deadpanned.
"So... things aren't really good between you two huh." There it was again, the hopeful tone in Heather voice. Something was off... but then again, things had been nothing but off for Astrid.
"Look, I know how this all sounds so wrong. I will tell you everything later. I promise," Astrid said as she picked up her bag, and reluctantly left Heather.
The first thing Astrid registered as soon as she arrived in the cafeteria wasn't Eret—pretty far from him. In fact, she almost forgot about him and his text message.
It was an auburn-haired boy, and she can't help but notice how beautiful he was when his face smiled too bright, like a child in a candy store, only that he was holding a bucket of Gothi's Yak Butter Fries.
And her heart skipped a beat, seeing her soul mat– Hiccup smile like that. Astrid mentally flicked her wrist, she did not just refer to Hiccup as her soul mate.
Her mind involuntary scrambled her memory for images of Hiccup, just fragments—the kind of memory where she as much as glanced at Hiccup direction, and it registered to her, from as far as she knew, that she never actually saw Hiccup smiling. All her images of him in her mind was with him looking small, with his shoulders dropped as if he was carrying the weight of the world.
And it could very well be her fault.
Her soul mat– Hiccup wasn't looking at her direction, and Astrid felt a weird urge or 'Pull' to call out to him and make him look at her. Look at her in the eyes, she wanted to feel those soul-piercing green orbs onto her. And–
And what in the name of hell was she thinking!
She was in a relationship for Freya's sake—sure a falling apart two-year-long relationship, but a relationship nonetheless. What became of them. What was left of them? The things the way they were now. This wasn't what Astrid singed up for when she started dating Eret. This wasn't the Eret she knew when she started liking him.
It was a fact that Astrid Hofferson and Competition go hand in hand. Where there was a competition, you can count Astrid on it, and where Astrid was, you can always count on a good competition.
That was where Eret stepped in. The early high school years, the beginning of sophomore years, when her whole high school career started to pick up.
Astrid Hofferson, a rising student-athlete having just earned her spot on the high school Tennis team – She wasn't the 'Valkyrie' yet, she was just a fresh blood, very hungry for success, and she wasn't going to settle with anything less than the top of the food chain.
And there was Eret, much like her, in all of his cocky tattooed-chin glory. She saw him as a rival—A direct competition for the top spot.
Astrid couldn't stand Eret; the same couldn't be said for Eret though. Astrid was aware of her, to put it on a better word: Physical Advantage(s)—in plural form. She was pretty much used to boys trying to win her over.
Eret wasn't supposed to be any different to any of those boys—hulking shoulders, bulging muscles, and a bit on the brainless side. But Eret had his own way of getting her attention—and managed to do so.
Eret didn't hit on her ... well he did, but it wasn't the usual pick-up lines, accompanied by dashing smiles and flexing muscles. Eret competed with her. He showed to her that he was a threat. Whatever Astrid did, Eret showed he could too if it meant proving himself worthy of her. He matched every single victory, title, and trophy she earned.
Competition. That was how Eret managed to win her over. That was the basis of their relationship:
It was thrilling. With him, Astrid couldn't let her guard down—not that she would ever. She wasn't a blushing maiden or a princess to be saved in their relationship. It was her kind of relationship, where they both pushed each other to their limit, they both helped each other improved, while they were both Partners and Rivals at the same time.
But as time passed, Eret seemed to stop trying. It felt like Astrid was dating a different guy. He just let her win, and there goes the thrill of the relationship. And it only got worse, Eret started to demand more from her as his girlfriend. That was when they started having fights.
Now that they were seniors and they were both eighteen, Eret wasn't even trying anymore to win her over—compete with her. He had been even more demanding. He just expected things from her, and Astrid felt like their relationship lost its essence, and become more of an obligation for her.
The way their relationship was now ... It was just pure mess. And now the soul mate thing crawling back to her life was the icing to the cake.
Or maybe, it was the way they were supposed to be. Eret wasn't her 'soul mate' after all. The devil's advocate part of her whispered.
And speaking of the devil, Astrid hadn't been aware how long she'd been spaced out when she felt someone grab her from behind, pulled her on a table to sit on someone's lap. She knew it was Eret when she felt a lip creeping up to the crook of her neck.
The contact made her suddenly tremble in annoyance, and she felt hot anger coursed through her.
This was exactly the problem. Astrid clenched her fists in disgust.
Eret couldn't just to that to her. He just manhandled her, and he of all person knew how much she hated being treated as such.
Astrid tried to calm herself, but she suddenly flinched when saw Hiccup, looking at her, his eyes wide, his mouth open, a blank look on his face. Then he blinked, his eyes now felt like razor sharp, and the sweet green color on it turned bitter, as he regarded her.
Astrid was chastised by his look, all the hot anger she felt slipped away, her clenched fist loosened as her palm began sweating. She felt her soul mark throbbed as she watched Hiccup dropped the bucket of fries he was holding, before he dashed off, and left the cafeteria.
Astrid had never felt a 'Pull' this powerful or the impossible urge to chase after him. She tried to stand up but was held back by Eret's hold on her. Being denied from the 'Pull' welled up all the anger that slipped from her renew ten-fold.
"Let go of me!" Astrid growled as she shoved away Eret's arm on her waist, and tried to push herself away from his lap. When she felt him relented, Astrid then drove her elbow behind her with a force that matched her anger, which hit Eret squarely on his gut, and sent him falling off his seat.
Astrid knew she wasn't thinking straight, but she didn't care anymore. She just felt irrationally furious at Eret. And before she knew it the words came out of her mouth.
"I can't take this anymore, Eret. It's over. We're over."
"W-Wait w-what? Why?" Eret asked obviously shocked and confused.
"I'm just done, Eret."
"Is this about me not trying again? Does it always to be competition with you?"
Astrid knew that she wasn't thinking straight. Especially now that she was on a surge of temporary emotions; she shouldn't have made a permanent decision.
Astrid was simply done.
Astrid left the cafeteria, leaving a shocked ex-boyfriend and an equally shocked audience, few of them who were already quietly murmuring among themselves. The rumors were surely going to be a big shitstorm to deal with, but she didn't care.
Astrid knew she was being rash, and maybe she would regret this later, but all of her just wanted to follow Hiccup. It didn't matter for her if she was being influenced by the 'Pull', her soul mark, or whatever 'blessing of the gods' was happening to her. She just needed to go after her soul mate.
As soon as she was out of everyone's sight, Astrid ran at her full speed, determined to go after her soul mate.
Yes, her soul mate.
Astrid wasn't ashamed to admit it anymore; Astrid always regretted her decision.
Maybe, Everything that was happening was her chance for redemption after all.
Everything... her whole high school. Astrid made the wrong choice. Maybe it didn't need to be about him or her. She didn't have to choose. It could had been them. Hiccup and Astrid.
After a few minutes of searching the campus, Astrid finally found Hiccup sitting on one of the benches on near the school entrance.
Astrid was about to approach him, but suddenly froze on spot; all her newfound resolve suddenly diminished at the sight of him.
Hiccup, her soul mate... H-he was nursing his left leg or what was left of it. He was wearing a metal foot. A prosthetic.
Hiccup had lost a leg, and how come she hadn't even known about it. She wasn't even there for him when it happened, and she was supposed to be his soul mate.