The first thing Finnly felt was a soft breeze of cool air coming from the vent above her bed. Long eyelashes flustered several times as she woke, brushing against high freckled cheek bones.
Today was the day.
Suddenly fully awake, Finnly burst out of bed in an eruption of brightly colored blankets. How could she have forgotten? She rushed over to her vanity table and brushed her hair while thinking about makeup options. Already her outfit was laid out on a chair in the corner of the room. She had set her alarm to wake her much earlier than was necessary, even so, she couldn't help but feel like she had to rush.
All this time-her whole life had been leading up to this moment. And finally it was here. The day that she would meet her soulmate. This whole week she had been giddy, every moment she spent waiting seemed to be an eternity.
As Finnly returned her hair brush to its place on her desk, she found herself looking at her right wrist. Since birth, there had been a little timer there, a bar of chrome gray with slowly changing numbers, always going down, down until the exact second that she would meet her soulmate. Now there was only six hours and thirty three minutes remaining.
Since birth Finnly had been told she was one of the lucky ones, destined to meet her soulmate at only seventeen. There had only been a handful of others in her class who had already met their's. Finnly saw the change in them. The difference between someone who still had their timer and someone who had watched it fall, was enormous. A spring to their step. A light in their eyes that Finnly had never seen in her own. But she knew she would have it soon. She would have it in six hours thirty two minutes.
Many years had passed since she'd first worked out the exact date in time. She had been nine when she had done it, using one of the many calculation websites to tell her what that fated day would be. And ever since then it had been marked on the calendar.
eleven thirty seven pm on April second, 2020. That was when her life would change forever.
For years she had made a ritual of it. She would always take a moment of silence. Exactly one year from now, I will meet them. She would think. A year from now we'll be together. And slowly the time ticked on. Six months from now. Two months from now. One. and finally she was here.
Finnly stepped on doing her normal makeup. She had read online somewhere that it was important to leave a good first impression, so it was necessary to look as good as possible on your day. Finnly had never really agreed with this theory. Today she was meeting her soulmate, her life partner. Wouldn't they want to see her the way that she was normally?
Finnly knew that a willowy redhead was not most people's definition of beauty. And she did sometimes find herself looking had her blonde or back haired classmates and wondering if beauty was worth its cost in hair dye. Not that she would look go with anything but her natural color anyway, with her freckled face and nearly invisible eyebrows.
More often than not, these thoughts would vanish just as quickly as they appeared, for once glance at her wrist was all Finnly needed to know that there was someone out there who would find her attractive, and all she had to do was wait a few more hours.
Finnly had only just started with mascara then the sound of her phone ringing on her night stand almost made her poke her eye out with the wand. She lowered her hand slowly and picked up without looking at the caller ID.
"Hey," she said casually.
"Hey!?" An energetic voice repeated from the other end of the line, "Today's your meeting day and you sound like you just walked out of a funeral."
Finnly let out a smile as she switched the call to speakerphone and continued applying her mascara. Ashley had always been over enthusiastic about things, especially when it came to meeting days.
"It's early," Finnly said, "I'm still processing."
"We'll process faster!" Ashley said, "Are you ready?"
Finnly returned the tube of mascara to her drawer. "Not yet."
"Well why not?" Ashley asked.
"I got up an hour earlier than I needed to as is," Finnly said, going in with the blush.
In response she heard a sharp thud on the other end of the line.
"Was that a car door?" She asked, "Where are you?"
"On your front porch."
Finnly let out another sigh as a smile creeped to her lips. "Let yourself in then…"
she hung up the phone as she heard the front door of her house open. A moment later Ashley was barging through the door. She looked the same now as she did every other day, but Finnly couldn't help but stop to look at her.
The same sleek converse and back leggings that Ashley had grown up in. Her cute pink backpack was handing off one flannel clad shoulder, draped in the few stands of chestnut brown hair that had managed to escape the messy bun on the top of her head.
It was no new occurrence to have her appear in Finnly's doorway. Ashley had been a part of her life since before she could remember. With a house close enough to bike to and a shared interest in Disney Channel original movies, the stage was perfectly set for the two of them to become best friends.
Though Finnly's bike had long since been repealed by a second hand Honda Civic, her visits to Ashley's place were no less frequent, and vice versa.
"You going out in that?" Ashely asked, looking down at Finnly's flowery pink pajamas.
"I'm not ready yet," Finnly said, rolling her eyes.
Ashley let out a laugh, turning away to let Finnly change.
"You're almost more excited than I am," Finnly said, turning to the chair where her real clothes were waiting.
"It's not everyday that you're best friend meets her soulmate." Ashely said, and though her voice was cheery, Finnly noticed that she was fidgeting with one of the many bracelets that looped around her right wrist.
Usually, the timer was something people liked to show off. A mark of youth if you still had it, a mark of belonging if you didn't. But Finnly understood why Ashley didn't want to look at hers. Where as Finnly had always been branded as someone who was destined for early happiness, Ashley was definitely a late bloomer.
Ashely would not meet her soulmate until she turned thirty seven. Finnly had been there when she found out, and watched her best friend's face fall as she read the screen. By the time Ashley's meet day came, half of her life would have already passed her by.
It wasn't something that they talked about a lot. Finnly was always careful whenever the subject of meetingdays arose, watching what she said lest it upset her friend. But in the past month or so, Ashley had been getting excited on Finnly's behalf. It had been a pleasant surprise when Ashley was so willing to be excited for Finnly, though she didn't bring up why.
Finnly finished changing and called for Ashley to turn around.
"Looks pretty normal to me," Ashley said, folding her arms over her chest.
"That's because it is," Finnly said, running a brush through her hair one last time. "I'm not going to go out of my way to look different. They're probably going to see me everyday after this. I'm not going to be at a hundred percent all the time."
"Suite yourself I guess," Ashley shrugged.
The two girls made their way out of the bedroom and into Finnly's kitchen. Both of her parents had long since left for work, though there had been a long talk the night before, congratulating Finnly as well as ensuring her not to be nervous...not that it helped much.
There was still nearly an hour before they would have to leave for the local high school, so Finnly and Ashley took their time. "I'm starving," Ashley said, hopping up to sit on the granite counter top, "What's on the menu?"
"What do you want?" Finny asked, "We have plenty of time."
"Hmm," Ashley tapped her chin, making a show of it. "Pancakes!"
"Pancakes?" Finnly asked, "I've never made those before..."
"I'll help you," Ashley said, "It'll be an adventure."
Luckily, cooking pancakes wasn't as hard as Finnly had feared it would be, though she had already had to change her carefully selected clothes after an incident with the flower.
The pancakes that Ashley so proudly pulled off the griddle left something to be deciphered, but the two girls hardly noticed. Ashley had been right, the morning was like an adventure of sorts.
But now that Finnly's belly was full, and the multitude of dirty dishes had made their way to the sink, she could feel dread wrapping it's calloused hands around her heart once more.
"You ready to leave?" Ashley asked.
"It's still early," Finny said, glancing at the clock.
"Only a little," Ashley said, "besides, I'm sure everyone will want to talk to you."
"I guess," Finnly signed. She wasn't sure how much more she could take. In only five hours now...she would be face to face with her soul mate.
Ashley grabbed her keys from the counter and they both made their way outside. Though Finnly had her license, it wasn't often that there was a car available for her to use. lucky it didn't matter that much since she and Ashely were practically joined at the hip anyway.
Finnly slid into the passenger seat of her bestfriend's pickup truck as naturally as she did with her parents' cars. Ashley did the same on the other side, an easy smile playing her lips as both girls fastened their seat belts in unison. And then they were off.
Finny's hometown was not a large one by any means. She could have walked to the school just as easily as she could drive there, if not faster. But it was the principle of the thing.
She knew that her timer was set to go off near the beginning of her third block. But she had long since met everyone in that class already. She had a plan that she would ask to use the bathroom a few minutes before the timer went off, and then they would meet in the hall. She assumed her soulmate probably had the same idea, not wanting their meeting to be watched by all the other students.
Ashely pulled into their usual parking space in the student lot. Finnly wasn't used to arriving so early, and there were far fewer cars around than she normally saw when she walked in three minutes before the final bell. She wasn't sure how this was meant to settle her nerves, but she followed Ashley into the building anyway.
Since the start of freshman year, the two had developed a kind of routine. First they would go to Ashley's looker, then Finnly's then they would make the rounds, talking to whatever friends or teachers they needed to before parting ways and going to class.
Finnly hadn't ended up in any of the same classes with Ashley this year, though they constantly met up during passing periods. Ashley had been demanding that Finnly text her as soon as she had met up with her SM, and Finnly knew she would want every detail.
Ashley led the way through the mostly empty halls, talking the long way around on her way to her locker. Whenever the girls passed someone they knew, they would stop and wish Finnly a "happy meetingday," before going about their business.
Finnly always smiled and nodded, and told them she was excited, but everytime she heard the words, she felt her anxiety grow. She was so close. And she wanted the moment to come faster, so that she could finally see the person that she's waited her whole life for. But another part of her wanted time to stop, so that things wouldn't have to change after she met them.
Ashley seemed to be leading Finnly through every hall she could find, winding around and around the school before finally making it to their destinations. By the time they had both made a stop at their lockers, it was almost time for the final bell to ring.
"I'll see you soon," Ashley called as they neared the crossroads where they would have to split.
"You too," Finny called, branching off at the direction of the math hallway.
Pre-calculus had never been Finnly's strong suit, but she felt even less focused today. The few classmates she knew who had already had their meeting day told her that it was probably better to not even bother with school work, since she would be too excited to pay attention anyway. Thought at first Finnly that thought it would be a waste of time to sit through a whole class and not work on anything, she found that now she would have to agree. There was no way that she would be able to focus on anything, not with her meeting to close at hand.
She left the class room feeling more antsy than ever, and not having a clue what was taught. She figured she would just have to ask someone if she could copy their notes later, but at the moment she hardly cared. There were less than two hours left on her counter now. Only one more class, and then she was practically there.
The next class didn't go much better than the first. Finnly sent most of it staring down at her wrist, watching the numbers turnover on by one. She thought she'd nearly cry when the time passed the one-hour ask about halfway through the teacher's lecture, but she kept her head down and did her best to look like she was engaged in the lesson.
Finally the bell rang and Finnly was released to her next class. The last class she would have without knowing how her life partner was. It was all she could do to keep from running there now.
Finnly had always been careful not to fantasize about her soulmate. All of the adults she knew said that it would be nothing but trouble, that she would just have to wait and see what they were like. But she could never quite stop her mind from wandering. Who was she going to spend the rest of her life with?
She had always thought Ashley's brown eyes were pretty, but blue eyes seemed cool too. What color hair would they have? Would it be fancy and styled, or loose and natural like Finnly keep hers? She settled down into her desk and closed her eyes, running through possibilities like she was building an avatar in a video game, imagining every combination, as if this could prepare her for what was about to come.
Finally, the bell rang, and the class settled down. Not long now. Finnly stole a glance at her wrist timer, even though she already knew what it was going to say. Less than ten minutes now.
The teacher took her time returning to the classroom from where she was cheating in the hallway. The other students took advantage of it, floating between the table groups or working on last minute homework.
Finnly watched the time go down, only nine minutes now, eight.
She decided that she would leave the room when the time got down to four. It seemed like a good number. But where would she go after that? Did it matter?
The teacher entered the classroom and the students that were still talking begrudgingly returned to their seats. The teacher ran through some announcements, though Finnly felt them flow in one ear and out the other. The only thing she heard was her heartbeat, pulsing in time with the numbers on her wrist. Six minutes now. Five.
The teacher pointed everyone to the warm-up question on the board and then made her way over to her desk at the front of the room. It was now or never.
Finnly stood and walked over there, clearing her throat as she approached.
"I need to use the bathroom."
The teacher looked up at her, moving agonizingly slowly. "Class just started." she said skeptically acyl.
Finnly had prepared for this of course. "I forgot." she lied smoothly.
The teacher's eyes migrated down to Finnly's wrist. She quickly tucked it behind her back, but it was too late. The teacher had seen it.
She opened her mouth to speak, but the words didn't have time to reach her lips before there was a knock at the door.
Finnly turned to see one of the school administrators standing there. The teacher sighed and rose from her desk.
"I need to go talk to him," she said, "Please take your seat."
A moment later she brushed past Finnly, leaving her alone in the front of the classroom.
She could feel her classmate's eyes on her. They all knew it was her day. Why hadn't the teacher understood that?
At a complete loss, Finnly turned and walked back to her seat, laying her arm out on the desk as she did so. Only two minutes now. Has she missed her chance?
The door to the classroom opened, and the teacher returned. Her eyes seemed to fall on Finnly first.
"If I can have your attention please." she said.
The students looked up,
"I have just been informed that this class will be receiving a transfer student this morning."
Finnly felt her mouth go dry. It was them. They were here. Waiting on the other side of that wall.
Some of the other students looked at her. The timer on her wrist was less than a minute now. So close, so close. She could hardly stop from shaking.
"Class, please meet Adrian."
The teacher gestured to someone on the other side of the door, blocked from Finnly's view. She could hardly breathe.
He entered the room slowly, and the first thing Finnly saw was his foot. She felt a sudden coldness on her wrist as the timer that had been there since her birth dropped onto the desk with a clang. He was beautiful.
Dark eyes framed by darker hair, a crumpled looking at T-shirts and jeans. His eyes were scanning the classroom, though they had yet to land on Finnly. Before she knew what she was going, she stood, drawing even more attention. Adrian's eyes fell on her, and he let out a little smile as his wrist time fell to the floor.
They stared at each other, drinking in every detail as the teacher and other students watched.
Adrian ran a hand through his bangs, pulling them up to reveal his evenly tanned forehead. "Is the seat next to you open?" he asked, and his voice was soft and gentle.
Finnly swallowed, still unable to speak, and nodded stiffly.
Adrian nodded, then bent awkwardly, retrieving his fallen timer from the floor and joining Finnly's table group. She couldn't seem to take her eyes off of him as he slid into the seat next to her, but he was looking back at the teacher.
The teacher stood there for several seconds, then turned back to the board, teaching though no one was listening.
Finnly continued to stare at Adrian, looking away with a bush when he turned to see her.
"Where are you...staring at me?" he asked.
Finnly focused her eyes on the desk, thought she could still feel his eyes on her. She gave a little nod and squeaked out a "sorry."
Adrian sighed, thought she couldn't tell if it was a good or a bad one.
"It's fine," he said finally, then turned back to the teacher.
Though it seemed like he had given her permission to continue, Finnly tried her best not to ogle Adrian anymore. She watched him out of the corner of her eye, but to her dismay, he never seemed to be looking at her. She'd assumed that he would at least be a little interested. But she refused to let that get her down. They would have plenty of time to look at another. The rest of their lives. She told herself that Adrian was just different from her. She knew that this had to be true. That was why he seemed disinterested. He just showed it in a different way. But these sentiments did nothing to quiet the voice in the back of her head.
He doesn't like you. He doesn't like you.
Class went on without incident. Finnly could hear the whispers of the other students all around her, but Adrian didn't say a word. Not until the bell rang.
Finnly slowly packed up her stuff as the other students made their way out of the classroom, unceremoniously staring at the two newly matched the whole time.
For a scary moment, Finnly thought that he was just going to leave without saying anything, but when the classroom was nearly empty, he turned to look at her.
"I guess I should get your number," he said, "considering…"
"Right," Finnly nodded, fumbling with the phone in her pocket and opening a new contact before handing it to him.
"Thanks," he said, taking the phone and entering a name and number before handing it back to her.
"I'll go ahead and send you a message so you have mine," Finnly said.
Finnly sent a simple "hi" and slipped her phone back into her pocket, satisfied when she heard his phone buzzing in his pocket.
"Are you doing anything this afternoon?" He asked.
"We could meet up after." He offered, speaking slowly.
"Sure," Finnly said. My voice sounded so loud compared to his, "Where do you want to go?"
"I just moved here," Adrian shrugged, "so I have no idea what's around. And I don't have a car yet so.."
"No, that's fine," Finnly said, "I don't have a car either, but I know a café is within walking distance. We can walk there, if you can get a ride home…"
"I don't live far, so I could walk back." Adrian said, "That sounds great."
"Cool!" Funny nodded, feeling somewhat relieved that she had managed to arrange a meeting, "I'll meet you at the office after the last bell?"
"Sounds like a plan." Adrian nodded, "I'll see you there."
He grabbed his books and walked out of the room, leaving her alone there.
Ashley: Tell me everything.
I stepped down into my seat. I had already come in late and now I was going to be texting the whole class? This was going to make the teacher really happy.
Finnly: don't you have class?
Ashley: class isn't important now!
Ashley: what are they like?
She glanced up at the teacher, who was sitting behind his desk, grading papers. She moved my hands under the desk before taping out her next message.
Finnly: his name is Adrian.
Ashley: he sounds hot.
Ashley: is he hot?
Finnly: jez slow down.
Finnly: I'm getting there.
Careful to make sure the teacher wasn't looking, Finnly spent most of class describing her interactions with Adrian to her friend. Ashely was constantly imposing her own assumptions about him, but most landed pretty far from the mark.
Finnly: he just seemed kind of unenthusiastic about it all.
Finnly: it kinda scares me.
Ashley: he probably just doesn't show it as much as you.
Ashley: I mean you're soulmates right? Makes sense that if you're excited he's more reserved. You know, opposites attract.
Finnly: yeah I guess you're right.
Ashley: you'll get time to talk to him more after school. That's not too long.
Finnly glanced at the clock. She had been waiting her whole life to meet Adrian. Now she had to wait even longer before she could talk to him. Before she could come up with a response, the bell rang, releasing Finnly to lunch.
Ashley: we'll talk later.
Ashley: you can tell me all about your date.
Finnly: it's not a date.
Ashley: whatever you say~
Finnly rolled her eyes and dropped her phone into her pocket, making her way to the cafeteria.
The rest of the day passed by far too slowly for Finnly's liking. Every time she closed her eyes she could see Adrian's face. Soft, round cheeks...long dark eyelashes. It was the only thing she could think about.
Ashley had already offered to pick her up from the café, but Finnly had declined. She knew that Ashley would try and come early to meet Adrian, and Finnly wasn't sure she was ready to introduce them yet.
Somehow she managed to survive through the rest of the school day. But the time the last bell finally rang, she could hardly contain her excitement, rushing out of her last class to her locker. She didn't want to leave Adrian waiting.
After shoving her things into her bag and slamming her locker shut, Finnly joined the stream of students walking toward the exit. As she neared the main office, she could see Adrian idling by one of the open benches, watching the others go by.
Finnly stepped out of the main flow of foot traffic, and she felt his eyes fall on her.
"Hope you haven't been waiting long." She said, "I had to come all the way from the spanish hallway."
"I don't mind," Adrian said, "it took me awhile to figure out how to get here anyway."
He turned to the door, leading the way out into the cold spring air. Finnly followed behind him, even though she was the only one of the two who knew where they were going.
The parking lot was filled with students and parents, all of them trying to get out as soon as possible. But Finny and Adrian did not have to deal with the traffic. The café that Finnly had told him about was on the same side of the street as the school, all they had to do was walk along the uneven sidewalk, passing the cars next to them, free from the traffic of the road.
"Do you do this often?" Adrian asked.
The question caught Finny by surprise. Adrian hadn't looked at her as he spoke. It wasn't something she was used to. "What's that?" She asked.
"Do you get food after school a lot?" Adrian rephrased.
"Oh," Finnly pulled her eyes away from Adrian and back to the sidewalk. "No not really."
"Do you?" She asked. It was an automatic response, thought as soon as it slipped from her lips, she realized it was stupid. He's only been here for one day.
"No." Adrian said, "there was nothing close enough to walk to at my old school. Didn't have the chance."
"Oh," Finny said. She thought that it was supposed to be easy to talk to her soulmate. But the sentences were becoming more and more awkward by the minute. "Do you miss your old school?"
He must have known that I would be here. Finnly thought. As soon as his parents told him he would be moving. He must have known I would be waiting here for him.
The two newly matched teens crossed stepped over the concrete barrier and into the parking lot of the little café. It was nothing fancy, but it's proximity to the school made it a popular meeting place. Lucky, today the place seemed to be nearly empty, as if the building itself knew that it would be privy to Finnly and Adrian's first date.
Finnly led the way to the counter and ordered a complicated combination of coffee and cream. Adrian ordered a cold brew, then both teens walked to the other side of the counter to wait for their drinks.
"Do you always order that?" Adrian asked. His mind was still trying to grasp why someone would need such a complicated drink.
"Not every time," Finnly said, "That would be boring."
"Right," Adrain sighed.
"What about you?" Finny asked, "is it always cold brew?"
"I like what I like," Adrian shrugged. He was unapologetic. It was endearing.
The two got their coffee and settled down at a table near the window. They talked for several hours before leaving, but the whole time, Finnly couldn't help but feel a little disappointed. Adrian was supposed to be her soulmate after all, but he seemed so withdrawn, as if his mind was somewhere far away.
Always the optimist, Finnly wrote up his disinterest as stress from his recent move, and tried not to let it get to her. But she couldn't stop the constant nagging that something was off.
She walked home from the cafe alone, not sure what to think of it. By the time she stepped through the front door, Finnly's phone was on the verge of blowing up with messages. Most of them were from Ashley, desperate for all the "juicy" details.
Finnly knew that she couldn't put off her friend for long. But at the moment she had no desire to talk. She felt a kind of looming dread that she wasn't sure Ashley could understand.
She occupied herself with making dinner as she plunged head first into homework, trying to block out the incoming anxieties. Several hours passed, thought Finnly hadn't been able to go one minute of them without thinking of Adrian.
Ever since her birth she had always been told that her soulmate would be someone unexpected. But Adrian was nothing like she had imagined. But at the same time, she knew that they were all each other had. They would work it out. They had to.
It was this conclusion that finally gave Finnly the solace she needed to calm her mind, and she slowly made her way into the bedroom and fell fast asleep.