By Calasandra Spray (TheLorian)
Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. I stared at the numbers, anxious for the clock to strike twelve. Restless foot-tapping, pen clicking, and gum-smacking resonated from my sisters who were waiting with me.
“Shhhhh,” I pressed a perfectly manicured finger to my lips.
“Flip your wrist back up,” they barked in unison.
Once again, I placed my wrist in the middle of the table. Four sets of eyes were glued to that little patch of skin. There were a few circular indentations where the bigger beads of my bracelet had dug in. In the corner, my wrist bone jutted out from peach skin, and a little brown freckle marred otherwise perfect flesh. I had memorized that patch of skin waiting for the markings we all got the year we met our soulmate.
No one knew why, only that it happened. Every night girls, boys, men, and women would wait up on the evenings of their birthdays for those words to appear. The first words their soulmate would say to them. Some didn’t have to wait long. My younger sister Julie already met hers. At the tender age of six, no one expected her words to appear, but nonetheless “Will you pass the yellow crayon?” appeared on her baby like flesh, and a few months later on the first day of kindergarten she had met her match. Others, like my mom, sat every birthday anxiously waiting for them to appear only to be disappointed. She hadn’t gained her soulmate tattoo until she was 27. I wasn’t in a rush, yet every birthday I sat around our old oak living room table with my sisters staring at the same patch of skin.
Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding.
“Hello” was sprawled across my wrist in solid black ink. Simultaneously, my sisters spoke up.
“What the hell!” Terisa, the second eldest, shouted.
“I guess your first words aren’t that memorable, that doesn’t mean your life together won’t be,” Kara, the oldest, reassured.
“I like saying hello,” Julie commented.
Feelings of astonishment washed over me. I hadn’t expected this year to be it. Nevertheless, there they were. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Letters staining my skin, a tattoo that would never fade. Ever so slowly the astonishment faded and my sister’s voices resonated in my ears. Hello. Such a simple word, a common word. Fear bubbled to the surface, pinching my chest tight.
“How will I know,” I whispered between shaking lips. “So many people tell me hello every single day, how will I know it’s him?” Trembling tears leaked down my cheeks, etching their way into each crevice.
“Simple,” Julie chirped. “Make him know it’s you.” Each set of eyes darted to her, a questioning looks clouding over green, hazel, and brown orbs. Sighing, she shook her head. “You don’t get it. Make him KNOW it’s you,” still we stared. “Anytime someone tells you hello, reply with something ridiculous. For example,” here she cleared her throat and did her best impression of a boy, which came out more like a croak than a boy. “Hello,” then she began to imitate me, twirling a little lock of hair around her index finger flirtatiously. “Purple peonies eat crocodiles.”
Butterflies filled my stomach, soaring through my chest and landed on my heart. Sweet innocence sometimes had the most perfect solutions.
“Yes,” I grinned. “Purple peonies eat crocodiles, and he’ll know it’s me.”
The first boy.
He approached me from down the hallway. Not really an approach, just walking in my direction, until he accidentally bumped my shoulder.
“My horse loves lizards that chase dinosaurs.”
“Um, okay then.”
The tenth boy.
“I hate when cows start barking.”
“Cow’s don’t bark.”
He gave a smug smile, writing me off as a lunatic.
The one-hundredth boy.
“I poured spot remover on my dog…now he’s gone.”
A small chuckle escaped his lips. Hope swirled in my chest, did he recognize that line?
“You’re quite the comedian.”
He walked away. Hope vanished and a cold chill set in.
The one-hundred-twentieth boy.
An ache had set into my chest each time I heard that little word. How could five letters hurt so much?
“Nothing is as curiously cuddly as a porcupine.”
“That’s….well, that’s a strange greeting.”
The plan wasn’t going very well. Each time I said something crazy I felt a little crazier. Why couldn’t I have had something unique to listen for. Anything but a word I heard a thousand times a day. Thinking back, I had come up with some fun lines though. “Peter Piper never picked peppers; he plucked plums.” “Sky-high rocket scientist on the job; where’s the meltdown.” “My dog farts skittles when he barks.” “Bug boy bought bunches of bananas.” “Fluffy pink unicorns are a popular status symbol around macho men.” “My dragon is named Qerug.”
The one-hundred-twenty-first boy
“Baby feet taste good baked.”
A blush spread over his cheeks and his mouth thinned into a small strip.
“You!” He huffed out a deep breath. “You’re the one who has PERMANENTLY scarred my skin with baby feet taste good baked! Try explaining that one to anyone who sees it!” He unclipped a watch with a yellow wristband to reveal tan skin. Right there, plain as day. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Words telling me he was mine.
A smile grew over my lips as I stared at him, red, panting, a clenched fist, but a soft glint in his eye telling me he was happy to meet me. “You could have been stuck with hello.”