Maybe We can be Friends
I rubbed the ache in my chest again. My friends barely noticed, they were too busy ordering another round of drinks. They handed me a bright blue shot. I didn’t ask what was in it. It didn’t matter, I wasn’t driving and the goal was to stop thinking and not remember this evening. The plan was to black out the world for a little while and I was well on my way to accomplishing that goal.
Rachel had told me, “I’ll make sure you survive the night, so have fun.” I trusted her. I wouldn’t wake up in an alley or on someone else’s lawn. I would wake up in her bed or on her couch and that was all that mattered right now.
She knew I needed this night out. I needed to forget where I was and what had been happening over the last week. I had tried everything from binge watching mindless television to excessively working to keep myself occupied. Anything to ignore the bruises and the aches that kept appearing all over my body. If I drank until I couldn’t see straight then I could wipe this craziness from me. At least for one night.
“You still here?” I heard Rachel whisper in my ear. She was the only one I had told about what had started happening exactly a week ago.
“Half,” I told her. I reached out a hand for the bright pink drink in her hand. “Need to go over the edge.”
“Any new ones?” she asked.
“No idea, that is the point of this.” I told her. I sucked down the pink concoction. It was sickly sweet but left a burn that I would be feeling for a while. I wondered as I rubbed my chest again if he/she was feeling the same effect. I laughed to myself. After what I had endured this was nothing for them. Hell, they might even be enjoying it.
The world was starting to spin. I I had to hold onto the edges of my seat to keep myself from tipping over and landing on the ground. That is all I would need, a few extra bruises and bumps. I straightened myself and reached out for another drink.
The sun was so bright, like it had been set to blazing. The birds weren’t singing this morning, they were legit screeching at me. And whoever was stomping around the apartment needed to quit before I jumped up and chopped off their feet.
“Glad to see you are still with us,” It was Rachel. Did she have to scream? Couldn’t she just whisper? I waved at her and slid my head under my pillow, trying to muffle some of the chaos around me. The world muted but it was still too loud, I needed everyone to just go silent for a day.
I felt a tug at my pillow. I tried to hold on but she was much stronger then me and at a better angle. She pulled it off and the world came back at me full volume. I tried not to cry.
“Go away,” I whined.
“No,” Rachel was tapping my arm. I pulled up my head, my tangled hair falling into my face and gave her a glare. She was grinning one hand held out with a two pills on her palm. There was a glass of water on the nightstand. “Take these and come into the kitchen with me.”
“Don’t wanna,” I told her.
“Don’t care. I let you have you fun last night. I let you drink yourself into literal darkness. I understood that you needed it for one night. I put you to bed. Now you have to deal with the after affects and I get my turn to help you,” she was still tapping me. “Take them. Now.”
I groaned and sat up. I knew if I didn’t listen she would just get louder and more annoying. The woman wasn’t good with the word no, and either was I. We were probably the two most stubborn people on the planet and if we decided to battle it out we would be here for a while. I really just wanted to sleep and not to argue so I gave in.
I took the pills with the water. It was lukewarm. They went down pretty roughly making me cough.
“Come on,” she threw the covers off my legs. I saw I was still in my clothes from last night.
“What, couldn’t put any pajamas on me?” I teased her.
“You were lucky I got you into that bed. I can only perform so many miracles in a day,” she told me.
“Fair enough,” I stood up and was glad to see the world didn’t sway.
I followed her into the kitchen. On the dining room table there was McDonald’s fries and toast. I laughed to myself. She might be a stubborn bitch sometimes but she did know me well. This was why we were still friends.
I sat down and ate a handful of the fires. My stomach was already feeling calmer.
“So are we going to talk about what is going on? Or am I going to talk while you glare and groan?” she asked.
I held up two fingers. I didn’t feel like talking at the moment. All I wanted right now was food and sleep.
“Fine,” she snapped. She wasn’t even trying to hide her annoyance anymore. “Have you told anyone but me about the bruises? Does anyone else know you’ve been connected?”
I shook my head no, as I licked the salt from my fingers.
“Surprise, surprise. So what are we going to do about it?” she asked.
I shrugged. My head was still pounding and my stomach was just stopping it swaying. I had no plan for any of this and I didn’t want to try to come up with one right now. My body was in revolt and I didn’t need my brain to be freaking out as well. One problem at a time. Once the physical side of me was calm again then maybe I could jump into the emotional hurricane, but not right now.
“No shrugging at me and no more ignoring this. You have been avoiding this for a week. It is killing you. Last night you tried to literally drink it away and that worked so well. You need to go down and register, find him and work from there. You know you only get one connection and if you don’t find him you could lose him. Do you want that?” she asked me.
“What I want right now is a shower and then a nap,” I told her. “Thanks for the breakfast,” I picked up my keys and shoes. I gave her a one armed hug and headed toward the door. I was not going to argue with her when I felt like my head was going to split open.
I heard a muffled, “Dammit,” follow me out the door as I left to go home.
Did I really need a headache and nausea on top of everything else I had to deal with? Did she not understand the concept of being connected? What she did I felt, and vice versa. Then again I couldn’t really blame her; if this was my pay back I could deal with it.
I hissed as I laid a washcloth to my newest cut on my upper arm. It was angry red with dried blood around the edges. After a moment I pulled back the cloth and saw that much of the blood was gone. I laid a bandage over it and wrung out the cloth. I laid it over the edge of the sink and looked at myself in the mirror.
My face looked perfect. There wasn’t a cut or bruise to be seen. From just my face you would think I was happy and safe. When I met people I gave them a big and genuine smile. My voice was alway happy and pleasing. You would have no idea that from the neck down my body was a disaster.
If you saw my chest and upper legs, my shoulders and arms you would see how I really was. I kept that smile on my face to hide what was under my clothes. I had to hide it all. I couldn’t let anyone know. If they knew they would take her away and put her somewhere I couldn’t get to. They would treat me like a victim, reassuring me over and over again that it wasn’t my fault. I would get hugs and tears, pats on the backs and offers for condolences. None of which would heal the bruises, broken ribs or cuts. None of which could turn back time and keep her from losing control that one night that set flipped the switch. None of those words were going to help me fix her.
They wouldn’t understand. I didn’t stay out of fear of her. Could she kill me if she wanted to? Most likely. I have about fifty pounds on her, as well as much more muscle, but she was smart and cunning. She knew how to use what was closest, she knew how to keep me down and she knew that the last thing I would do was hurt her. She could get out of control but she was always able to pull back before she did any major damage. For her to survive, I needed to survive and she knew that.
No one else would understand and I couldn’t have her branded as evil or cruel. She was just sick and I was the only who could help her. I had a price to pay for being beside her but I knew what I was doing. I had everything under control until this damn connection came into play.
Now, not only did I have Susan and her breakdowns to deal with, but I had my supposed “soulmate’s” poor choices kicking me when I was down. I am getting pummeled from both sides and I clutched onto the sink and wondered how long I could keep this mask plastered on my face.
I expected the knock to come hours earlier. It was almost six when I heard the soft knock on the door. I didn’t act surprised when I opened it to find Rachel on the other side.
“You’re late,” I told her as way of greeting.
“Excuse me?” she looked confused.
“I expected you to come bug me about this hours ago,” I told her.
“I had to get something,” she came inside without invitation. I noticed the papers in her hands now.
“Oh, come on,” I whined. “Did you really go and get them? Can’t you just leave this all alone?”
“You wake up each morning with a new bruise or cut. You are my best friend, and not only do I not want to see you being hurt but someone else is obviously being destroyed as well. Do you want to lose your soulmate and end up being lonely forever? Do you want to have their possible death on your hands?” She turned and headed to the living room when I didn’t say anything.
“What are we supposed to do exactly?” Again I wasn’t in the mood to go into a stubbornness battle with her. Being used as a punching bag was getting old I did have to admit. I never actually felt the impacts, just the after effects. They came in slowly but it was definitely getting old. I was out of ideas of how to deal with this. So I guess I could listen to whatever mad idea Rachel had come up with.
“You know the basics. Every new child is injected with this serum at birth and after 23 you can become connected. One day you wake up physically feeling whatever your intended soulmate feels. They stub a toe and a few minutes later you toe is killing you. First it is just physical but it evolves to an emotional connection after a while,” She was sitting with her back against my arm chair.
I nodded. You learned about the whole process in middle school. It was all complete bullshit but I knew how the idea worked.
“Now you can go to City Hall to have them help you find your soulmate if you want. You register, they use their database and some magic I don’t understand, to find whoever it is. You find them, you both seal the connection and then you run off and live happily ever after,” she was fanning out the papers in her hands.
I sighed and waved her on. “Get on with it. I know this and I am bored.”
“Now what they never told us in school was two things. Number one, is you can actually disconnect from someone if you so desire. If you want to be alone or hate people or whatever you can disconnect and then you are free. But you can’t ever be connected again,” she looked up at me.
“Knew that. I was told that a while ago, don’t remember by who. But yeah I knew all that,” She looked a bit shocked but nodded and continued on.
“Number two, is that if you suspect abuse of your soulmate, whether from someone else or themselves, you have a legal obligation to report it,” She informed me.
“Okay but what if you aren’t sure there is abuse?” I asked her.
“You look like an abstract painting. I saw your back last night. It is a patch work of blue and purple. I think that qualifies.”
“No, it actually doesn’t,” I didn’t look down at her paper, which I was sure had a plan to fight me with. “We do not know the source of this. We could bring down cops and state officials onto someone who just can’t walk over a flat surface. Now is that fair?”
“Someone is abusing your connection!” Rachel snapped. “How can you not care? Even if you take out the connection part, do you not care about someone getting hurt!?”
“A. Do not try to label me some cold hearted bitch you doesn’t care. You know better then that. B. We don’t know anything. Maybe they are a cage fighter and lose a lot? Or maybe they are a thrill seeker and fall down hills all the time? We do not know anything for sure,” I told her.
She took a deep breath trying to calm herself. “Fine,” she pointed down at the papers. “Here are all the papers you need to have them find the person. Fill them out and find them. See for yourself what is going on. I knew you wouldn’t do this the easy way. So here,” she stood up. “I just hope you aren’t too late and I hope it doesn’t end up kill you in the process.” She turned and headed out, the door slamming behind her.
Susan was just finishing up putting the lid on her coffee when I came into the kitchen. She gave my a sad smile.
“How are you?” she asked quietly. I could hear the guilt in her voice. It was almost a permanent part of her personality these days.
“I’ve been better and I have been worse,” I told her. It was my usual response to the daily question.
“I’m so sorry,” she came over and wrapped her arms around my waist and kissed my cheek. I let her sink into my chest, “I’m trying,”
I winced at the pain in my head. She pulled back her eyes swimming with tears, fear evident on her face. Worried that even something this simple was hurting me.
“No, it wasn’t you,” I reassured her. “It’s my head.”
“You have a headache?” she asked gently. She walked to the counter and got me two aspirin and filled a glass of water. I took the pills with a grateful smile and swallowed them down.
“I have to get to work,” she squeezed my hand, her eyes begging me to understand and to not give up on her for just a little big longer. I nodded and watched her leave the house.
Once I was positive the car was long gone I got my own keys. I needed to get City Hall. I needed to break this connection. I knew what the decision meant. I knew that this was the end of my possible soulmate, the end of the possibility of having a perfect life handed to me on a platter. I didn’t have the time or energy to think about all I was giving up by breaking this connection. Did I believe in this concept? I didn’t know and I didn’t have the luxury to research or think it through. Susan needed me and right now that was all that mattered.
City Hall was packed today. I glanced down at my watch, it was one. Of course it was packed, it was lunch hour. Everyone here had a finite amount of time to iron out whatever drama they were dealing with and get back to the office in time to have a bite or two of their sandwich. This was going to be even more of a headache then I previously thought.
I almost left and headed back to my apartment but I remembered the anger on Rachel’s face and her accusation. It only took me about ten minutes after Rachel left to realize how much of a point she had. Yeah, whoever was my supposed soulmate was not someone I knew personally and I didn’t know what his problem was but I did know that whatever was happening was seriously starting to hurt me. After she left I got up, gathered together the papers and filled them out. They were pretty basic and were not asking me for too many details but as I was filling them out I hit my side on the counter and nearly broke down into tears. I didn’t do pain well and I needed to end this horrible ordeal and quickly.
So here I was off to see if I could find this person and figure out what was going on. I could sever the connection fully and be completely done with this forever but there was this little voice that was whispering to me. It wanted to know what was going on. So more out of curiosity than anything else I was here.
My goal was to turn the papers in, get the address and name and go find this person. I would figure out if they were just some clumsy idiot who couldn’t walk straight or if they actually needed some type of help. What I would end up doing from there I have no idea. I would pass that threshold when I got to it, right now I needed to find the main office first.
I found the elevators and hit the button. A second later the elevator arrived.
“Hold the doors, please,” I heard a man’s voice call just as the doors started to close .I held the button even though I couldn’t see who the owner of the voice was. A few seconds later a tall, brown haired stranger entered, glanced at the buttons and waited to ride the car up to the right floor.
I was only a few inches shorter then the man but the way he held himself made him seem feet not inches taller then me. I stopped leaning back on the wall and stood up straighter. He didn’t look at me or say a word. His eyes stayed trained on the numbers as the floors slid by.
We got to the fifteenth floor, the doors opened and he exited first. I followed. We both walked straight down the hall. He was quick, knew where he was going. He turned right at the last door on the end, he reached out and grabbed the door knob; as he did his arm swung out and his sleeve slid up just a few inches. I saw for half a second a bruise ring on his wrist.
He went into the room. I stopped and pulled out my own right sleeve and looked down at the bruise there. I shook my head, it was nothing. I pushed it from my mind and headed into the office.
The office was half filled. On the counter there was a ticket dispenser. I took a number, 37. They were on 31.
I glanced around and saw two seats. One in the far corner and one beside the mystery man from the elevator. I took the seat beside him.
I didn’t say anything. Just sat and crossed my legs. I made sure to act like I had no idea who he was. I watched the people around me. Two individuals stood at the counter, having a muffled conversation. While others were sitting bent over clipboards filling out some sheets, that were probably similar to the ones clutched in my hands.
Some people looked excited. They were here to get that coveted name and address. Maybe within the next hour they would be face to face with their soulmate. A soulmate supposedly found by some highly scientific process that one could even begin to explain to me. They would meet and would assume they were in love. From that very moment on they would start forcing all their actions to work with this person because they were their soulmate, so of course whatever they were doing was right. That annoying laugh you could barely tolerate was suddenly cute because they were the “one.” Need to change your style to make them happy? Sure that was fine because they are the love of your life so it was right. All those things you normally would run from screaming were suddenly bearable and perfect because they had to be. It was all ridiculous.
Others looked more sane. They were here to disconnect and get control back for themselves. They would choose who they loved, not some process that no one actually understood. Like me they didn’t automatically assume that this soulmate was their chosen one and that they would be perfectly happy after they met. They decided to think with their own brains and not their hearts. Smart people.
“Ouch,” I screeched, hand going instantly to my side where the ache came from, just as the man beside me hissed and clutched his side in the exact same spot.
I looked over and caught his eyes, they were wide in shock and fear. He quickly turned away trying to pretend nothing happened. He folded his arms across his chest causing the side of his shirt to rise a few inches. I saw the finger shaped bruise on his hip.
I pulled up my shirt and saw the exact same bruise.
“You,” I hissed at him. He rose to his feet and began to rush away, not saying a word.
“Oh no,” I said to myself. He was my man and he wasn’t getting away from me that easily. I followed behind him, keeping to his heels until he was out of the office. Once we were both clear of the door I grabbed his wrist and felt an ache go up my arm.
“Where the fuck do you think you are going?” I snapped.
He finally stopped to look at me.
“You talk?” I asked.
“My name is Zack. I’m sorry,” he said.
“Not what I was looking for but name is Samantha. Now what is going on with you?” I asked. I was not in the mood to have a long conversation full of introductions and small talk.
“Nothing. I’m sorry you are affected but it’s personal,” he said. “Let me go back in and break the connection and it will all stop.” He turned to walk around me.
I should have just let him go but something stopped me. I grabbed his arm again. Again the bruise there throbbed.
“Not until I get an answer. What is with the new coloring?” I asked. I pulled back my sleeves to show my black and blue arms. “I look like a modern art paining. Explain.”
“I can’t. I am sorry. Just let me go fix this,” he told me.
“Are you being abused?” I asked plainly. This man wasn’t going to spill his secrets to me at the moment. The only way I was going to get any type of answer was if I somehow guessed it.
“It is not that simple. She is sick. She needs me. I just have to deal,” is all he said. “Can I go in now? Please?” I let him walk in the door.
They were on number 35. I was next. I didn’t retake my seat. I just stood on the wall, anxiously waiting for the woman ahead of me to finish. Samantha didn’t follow me inside. I don’t know what to make of her. She was pretty but blunt. She didn’t have stars in her eye unlike so many did when they were connected. She seemed closer to Earth. If I didn’t have Susan would we get along? Could she possibly be the one?
I hit my head back against the wall. None of that mattered anymore. Maybe in another timeline we would be connected and fall into each others arms. We would be perfect but that wasn’t here and now. Now I had to break this so my decision stopped hurting her.
“36?” they called. I walked up to the window.
“How can we help you today?” “I need to be disconnected,” I told the lady. Her eyes instantly lost their sparkle.
“Would you like to speak to someone first? Would you like a pamphlet on the process? How long have you been connected? Have you considered every single possibility?” she asked one question after another. I was prepared for this. They wanted to make sure you completely understood what you were doing.
“I know it all. Just please let me disconnect,” in the end it was my choice and my choice only.
“Sure,” she held out a clipboard with two sheets on it. “Fill out both and bring them back here.” she sounded as if she was helping me bury someone.
“Thanks,” I turned and found the first open seat.
I was half way down the first page when someone sat down beside me.
“How sick?” the familiar voice asked. It was softer then her accusing one from the hallway.
“It is complicated,” I told her not taking my eyes off the paper.
“Well, in my experience things that are complicated are easier to deal with, with two people. Alone it can look like a mountain to tackle but with a friend maybe it is only a hill.” she said. She put her hand on my paper and I had to stop and listen to her. “This concept is all bullshit, I know that. I don’t know you and I don’t understand your problem but I know the effects of it; at least physically. I can only imagine the emotional trauma. You can’t do this alone. Now I am not saying I want to end up being carted off into the sunset with you but you are going to need some help, a friend. So put down the pen and come get a cup of coffee with me. You can explain some of it and I can make my decision from there . If it is too much for me to even think about I will walk away and you can finish filling these out. But maybe, just maybe I can help you in some fashion. Maybe I can be a friend,” she save me a small grin.
I should have politely told her no and finished my task. This was my problem and pulling in a complete stranger was cruel and potentially dangerous. Then again I was so tired. This process was starting to get exhausting. It might be nice to have a shoulder to lean on and an ear to talk to.
“One cup,” I told her. I put the board and pen on the chair. She led the way out the door. As I left I could have sworn I saw a smile thrown my way by the receptionist.