Chapter 1: You Don't Have To Be A Star
A soulmate isn’t happily ever after. It’s not a promise, you can never even know positively if someone is “The One.” Sure, your body may prove otherwise. Those raised colored markings on your skin tell you the truth, or what you should believe is such. Eighteen years and you’ll finally be able to find your soulmate! Eighteen years of being filled with anxiety and stress. Overcome with the thought of who, where, how, when. A possibility of an entire lifetime before figuring it out.
Lucky people who find their soulmates right away. People who are not confused by their own feelings.
A few unlucky people contract Hanahaki due to an unfortunate and terrible circumstance.
And an even fewer who have more than one marking. Two or three different colored markings. Each a different person, typically a choice has to be made among the people and the markings. There have only been stories of a handful of polyamorous soulmate relationships from this fluke. Not impossible, not out of reach. Just rare.
One of the saddest stories, though, is about those who have no soulmate at all. No marking, which isn’t as bad for some. Or a marking that only glows on them, and not for the person who touched it.
The heartbreak that must follow can be...fatal. In our world, our society, our functioning humanity, the weight of finding your soulmate is crushing. Your whole life, you’re taught about soulmates and what it means, what your role is. A human life is weighed in the quality of love. A love that only brings strife before meeting.
Tomorrow is my birthday and yet...all of these possibilities have been racing through my head for the past (almost) eighteen years. I keep checking my phone to make it feel as if time will slow down.
Realistically, it won’t. Time is finite, it feels slow or fast sometimes, but it’s just time.
Will it burn? Tingle? Tickle? Does it feel like anything at all?
Do they already know me? Do I know them?
Thirteen minutes isn’t enough time to answer these questions. We deliberate and experiment, humans have for eons. The best we have to show is that it reveals where your soulmate will first touch you. When your soulmate touches that spot, both yours and your soulmate’s markings will glow. At least there’s that.
I don’t like this anticipation. Maybe it’ll be better to sleep and just wake up with the marking already there.
...If my parents weren’t standing right below my door pacing around, whispering to each other. They offered pastries earlier and I know my best friend is sitting in front of her phone waiting for me to call. Some comfort is provided by her, since she’s already gained her marking and found her soulmate. I'm just behind, slightly younger than everyone else in my class.
Ugh. Eighteen is so young, why not when you’re, like, 30?
What if it’s somewhere embarrassing?
I’ll just...close my eyes for a few minutes and not think.
It tingles. And then burns. They both do.
“Mari? Sweetie? Are you okay? Did it happen? What color is it?”
“Um…” I rub my forearm, then trail my hand down to my waist. Two markings.
Chapter 2: I Love You Just The Way You Are
“Girl, no way. Did you tell your parents?!” Alya basically screamed into the phone as I pulled it away from my ear.
“Of course I didn't,” I angrily whispered, “please don’t shout, I don’t think I want all of Paris to hear about this.”
“Ah, geez. Sorry, Mari, you’re right. It’s just...so few of these circumstances have been recorded, like, ever.”
I roll into my desk and slam my head onto my keyboard.
“I knoooow. I just don’t want to be anymore of a freak than everyone already thinks I am.” Mumbling into the desk, I fight off tears, my free hand absently playing with the growing pile of flower petals.
They don’t die or wilt. They don’t go away until your love is returned, changed, or death fixes it for you.
“Hanahaki isn’t something to be ashamed of. You know that.”
“Easy for you to say. How does something like Hanahaki even exist in a world where your soulmate is determined for you?” I hesitate before saying, “...Or soulmates, I guess.”
“Things happen, people change. Humans have feelings,” a rustling comes from the other side of the phone. “Sorry girl, I figured I would do some research while I was waiting for you to call.”
I winced. Ladybug. At least the suit covers my whole body. “What is it about this time?”
“Hm. I just want to know how old she is. Ladybug, I mean. She probably has to figure out this whole soulmate thing while navigating her normal life.” More rustling, “Do you think she has her internships already laid out, or is being an inconspicuous waitress more her speed?”
“I doubt she’s in college...I-I mean she’s probably so busy as it is. Doesn’t Paris pay her or something?” Maybe I can convince her that Ladybug isn’t in college like I am. Easier said than done.
“No, a few months ago she mentioned midterms. She has to be in college, or something like it.” I hear a knock through the phone and then, “Sorry girl, I gotta go. It’s almost 1am. We still have to get up in the morning. I’ll meet you for coffee and we can talk about your marking...s.”
“Sounds good to me, I’ll need the coffee.” I chuckle and we say our goodbyes.
Swiveling the chair, I stare at myself in the mirror across from me intently. My fingers brush over the raised marks on my skin.
The one on my forearm is a bright and vibrant green. It outlines an entire hand, but is almost smudged looking. I place my hand over the mark. Green.
The girl in the mirror looks back at me. I walk toward her. She moves closer, too.
I lift up my shirt only so slightly to reveal one dark teal spot right below my ribs. It’s almost a fingerprint. My finger presses against it slightly, causing a momentary discoloration. My throat starts to tickle as I begin to cough and I snatch my hand away from the mark to cover my mouth.
The desk welcomes me with an open embrace as pink flows from my lips.
I guess this is what it means to be lovesick.
A design sits tacked to the wall above the petals. It stands as a promise, a symbol of hope. Hyacinth petals pour from my mouth, dry as they join their siblings in a pile. I need to get a basket for these before they take over my desk
The ballerina dress is made of these petals, my petals. Another dress sits beneath the petals, made of tulle and ribbon. I imagine it would perform well. Desperately, I take big swallows of water to cover the dryness of my throat. It’s been a long few months. And an even longer eighteen years. Maybe things will finally change.
I dig a petal out of my throat. Dryer than a summer in the Sahara. No matter how long any of those flowers are in there, they’re always dry.